(From Books That I purchased at one of my favorite places in reality called Myopic Books. This is a WordED MIX TAPE. As always, click on picture for larger )
Critics and literary historians who predicted a fresh impulse to come from the generation returning in 1945 from the Second World War were therefore disappointed. Their error lay in the shortsighted notion that as the first war had produced a lost generation and a literary revival, a second war would repeat and produce another. Sober second thought brought the realization that the generation of the fifties was, in training and temperament, almost the reverse of that of the twenties. It had nothing to revolt against except revolt. Born into a world which apparently was already falling apart, it was not interested in destructive attacks upon any rigid systems of value or forms of expression. The revolt of the lost generation had been all too successful. Mere survival now dictated constructive effort or resignation to fate. To accentuate this trend toward conservatism, many of the older critics and writers were teaching the arts of poetry, drama, and fiction in the universities, and others were held up as models for imitation. Henry James, Hemingway, and Faulkner supplied the standards for fiction, Eliot for poetry, O’Neill for drama. A feeling had grown up that there are right ways and wrong ways of shaping style and structure and fixed standards and methods by which a work of art might be examined and judged. Summer conferences spread from coast to coast, giving employment and a fee to critics and writers and providing them with a forum and a following. At the same time professionalism was once more taking over popular literature as mass production in radio, television, movies, and paper-back books enormously increased the available public for literature but discouraged careful and thoughtful reading. Thus, as popular taste tended to become standardized on one level, cultism and retreat into esoteric forms and modes tended to standardize cultivated taste on another. Writers who attempted to strike out in their own directions were pulled toward one of these norms or the other. The split be- tween the “High-brow” and the “Low-brow” that Van Wyck Brooks had deplored in the late nineteenth century writers seemed to be opening once more. F. O. Matthiessen wrote just before his death in 1950, “American poetry in these years furnished the most serious evidence of cleavage between what we have learned to call mass civilization and minority culture.” To a somewhat lesser degree the same thing might be said of fiction and drama. Conformity had seized the mass; convention had taken a firmer hold on the culture.
“Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.”