HOPES AND ASHES: The Birth of Modern Times 1929-1939 by Alice G. Marquis

HOPES AND ASHES: The Birth of Modern Times 1929-1939

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A study culled from secondary sources of radio, film, print, modern art, and the World's Fair. Marquis aims at a sort of popular narrative history á la Frederick Lewis Allen or Gilbert Seldes. Unfortunately, the book often reads like an imperfectly arranged slide lecture, with inapposite images juxtaposed: Edward Hopper, Thomas Wolfe, Martha Graham, and George Gershwin are mentioned in the same breath. Mythic publicity statements are swallowed whole, such as the notion that Cecil B. De Mille read 10,000 scripts each year. The wearily familiar ground of Faulkner's and Fitzgerald's stay in Hollywood is gone over yet again, with nothing new added. On modern art, the problems increase. As the subject strays from already published facts and some interpretation is required, very questionable comments emerge. Whistler's Mother is claimed to have a ""relationship"" with modern art that is ""flimsy indeed,"" a comment sure to have been made without looking either at the painting or the Whistler literature. More offensive is the strict line the author takes in the heinous episode of Nelson Rockefeller destroying Diego Rivera's Rockefeller Center mural, out of petty political concerns. Rockefeller's act of vandalism is treated by Marquis as if it was a mild slap on the wrist of Rivera, a naughty boy who deserved it anyway. An obtuse attempt at cultural history that crashes as surely as the market did in '29.

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 1986
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan