1950s

they have the routine of the Indians and the colored folks

From a column by I. F. Stone publisehd in the Nation magazine on November 8, 1947, at the time of the anticommunist HUAC/"Hollywood Ten" hearings:

United States of nicotine

Ad in Life, 11/30/1959. There hadn't been 50 states for very long when this ad ran.

Purging libraries

In March 1953, at the height of the Cold War, with the Rosenbergs awaiting electrocution, Senator Joe McCarthy investigated the presence of certain books in In March 1953, at the height of the Cold War, with the Rosenbergs awaiting electrocution, Senator Joe McCarthy investigated the presence of certain books in State Department-sponsored overseas libraries. One writer whose books the libraries stocked was William Mandel, United Press expert on the WW2-era Soviet Union. Roy Cohen, David Schine and McCarthy's other staff named Mandel as a member of the Communist Party. Televised throughout the U.S. and watched by 40 million viewers, Mandel's defiance of the powerful Senator was unprecedented. Here is a 30-minute preview of a film about the McCarthy-Mandel confrontation. Mandel's reasonable-toned rejoinders of senators' questions permits little entry-point for senatorial bullying and he goes on to give a fairly cogent reply to McCarthyism.

Robert Frank per Jack Kerouac

"sucked a sad poem"

After looking at the photographs to be published in The Americans, Jack Kerouac said of Robert Frank thaAfter looking at the photographs to be published in The Americans, Jack Kerouac said of Robert Frank that he had "sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film." At right is one of the 83 photographs published in the book. Kerouac wrote the preface.

Cold-war poetry

At Franklin & Marshall's Writers House on March 10, 2010: A Lecture and Conversation: Al Filreis on "Some Poems of the Cold War: The Tranquilized 50s".At Franklin & Marshall's Writers House on March 10, 2010: A Lecture and Conversation: Al Filreis on "Some Poems of the Cold War: The Tranquilized 50s". "Come out from under your desks. In this hands-on session, Al Filreis will present several poems to explore together with participants within the milieu of the Cold War culture. Filreis is a Kelly Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, the founder and Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. Filreis is the author of 5 books on poetry, as well as numerous academic articles and essays. This event is free and open to the public." More...

the very serious business of cold-war academics


At a conference on Totalitarianism held at the American Academcy of Arts and Sciences in 1953 (proceedings published in 1954, edited by Carl J. Friedrich), David Reisman (author of The Lonely Crowd and other books), who was one of the speakers at the conference, put forward his elaborate plan for a "nylon war" that would cater to the ordinary human appetites behind the Iron Curtain by bombarding the Russians with luscious consumer goods.

Ah, academic conferences in the 50s! Don't you wish the social sciences were into stuff like this now?

1960, self-satisfaction and dread

I'm increasingly interested in the year 1960, and am toying with the idea of writing at length about it — the year generally (if such a thing is possible) and the year in American poetry & poetics more specifically. Certainly a turning-point year in the larger context, and probably in the latter somewhat more narrow context as well. Take a look at my 1960 blog.

I'm intrigued by the photo here. It's a shot of someone's father, a man named Phil — or "papa" according to the scant explanation I found randomly on someone's blog. The man's expression is, to me at least, completely ambivalent. It says self-satisfaction and it says major dread, both somehow. (Dread in the limit of the smile, the way the tie is tied or, rather, the posture of the neck, and in the way the left hand is tucked under the right in the pose.) The inscription on the back reads: Pop Je ne sais pas l’annee. The photo was taken February 1960, as marked.

Commies Taking over Tomorrow

Cold-War Sci Fi

The first postwar "Imagine if..." dramatizations of the Russians conquering and enslaving America, Is This Tomorrow? was published in 1947 by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society of St. Paul, Minnesota. At ten cents a copy, this fifty-two page, full-color comic book was a smashing success. It enjoyed several reprintings, and was used as a giveaway, presumably distributed to church groups.

Ginsberg: Don't smoke!

After a while, Allen Ginsberg enjoyed doing just about everything else but cigarette smoking. And he had the politics to support this one eventual self-prohibition, best expressed in his song called "Don't Smoke (Put Down Your Cigarette Rag)." Here is a RealAudio version of the recording, and here is an MP3 version. It's a 9 billion dollar capitalist joke.

Baseball as Civic Religion

I adore baseball in every way it's possible to do so: see it live, play it (rarely but longingly), view it on MTV.TV, read about it. I always read at least two baseball books each summer. (One of this summer's reads is Dan Okrent's Nine Innings.) My interest in the 1950s of course leads me to baseball through another route--actually it's three interests converging: baseball, the 50s, and poetry. The best expression I know of this is Gerald Early's essay published in the American Poetry Review in July/August 1996, "Birdland: Two Observations on the Cultural Significance of Baseball." I put an excerpt from this essay on my 1950s site.

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