THE AWKWARD EMBRACE: The Creative Artist and the Institution in America by Joan Simpson Burns

THE AWKWARD EMBRACE: The Creative Artist and the Institution in America

Email this review


Interviews with nine American culture czars, spliced with a flow of quotations from Malraux, McLuhan, Max Weber, Theodore Roszak, and others. Burns, who is a former employee of Partisan Review, Basic Books, CBS Records, Harcourt publishers and the Ameri-Associated Councils of the Arts, conducted most of the interviews in 1966-68, but says that publisher William Jovanovich held up the book by objecting to some of the interview and secondary material. It is hard to see why any of the nine would object to the book; true, it indicates that they tend to be mean contestants in an in.fight, as one would expect, but the general theme is that they are actually more sensitive and less powerful than critics believe. The interviews themselves are enjoyable (Jovanovich claims, ""It pains me to read Publishers Weekly when I see 'non-books' publicized); Turner Cafiedge recalls the ""darkies"" back home with self-irony; Hedley Donovan of Time reveals that on holiday, he reads scraps of The Arrangement and suchlike. W. McNeil Lowry, a cultural switching station for the Ford Foundation, is most appealing; least likable are Burns' old boss, Goddard Lieberson, founder of the modern record business, and Frank Stanton of CBS, whose interview lacks the kind of political bite that would make it revealing--though we do learn that he is a devotee of behaviorist psychology. Bums asks, ""Were Goodrich and Lieberson starved and corrupted by our society? Were Jovanovich and Lowry . . .?"" Burns observes that after all, CBS and Time are ""excellent"" for what they are. The book will arouse Manhattan luncheon circles, as well as general readers, but it seemed to promise more than that.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopf