Although Benjamin DeMott is frequently at odds with the hipster-type values of contemporary living, or what he tags...

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Although Benjamin DeMott is frequently at odds with the hipster-type values of contemporary living, or what he tags ""standard, high-gloss Formica-American, the essay style he displays often resembles some of the Journalism found in the pages of such magazines as Esquire. This is particularly true when he attempts to demolish the false eroticism of an institution like Playboy, or when he brings pseudo-dialectical reasoning to bear down on the sick-joke greeting card industry, or even when he tries to expose the empty excitement of sport parachuting. In all these pieces, one has the uneasy feeling that Professor DeMott is protesting too much. Then too he has a hankering for novelistic effects, as in his coverage of the Ted Kennedy campaign or in the rather hysterical dramatization he presents of Lee Oswald. Nevertheless, if DeMott's stance is slightly schizoid--partly conservative, partly liberal--he is at all times a bracing, incisive, witty observer and there is not one of his fifteen essays that is not in some way rewarding. To this reviewer's mind, DeMott is at his best when dealing specifically with other thinkers, e.g., Richard Hofstadter, Hannah Arendt, and especially Kenneth Burke; here he has ideas rather than impressions to deal with, and consequently his approach is not only splendidly coherent but also the tone of his remarks takes on a more assured authority. Portugal, Africa, the Harlem Youth Program, English hostility re American pop-exports, and educational problems round out a varied, vigorous collection.

Pub Date: March 23, 1966

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1966