Dwight Macdonald – Masscult and Midcult – Essays against the American grain (1960s, 70s)
Some authors leave behind books that, like the statue of Ozymandias, command you to look at their works, ye mighty, and despair, yet somehow have ended up broken, half-forgotten, covered by sand. Macdonald’s fault was to be a critic who sided unashamedly with high-brow art against the onslaught of what he called masscult – lowest common denominator art for the masses, and midcult – masscult with pretensions, in the service of the aspiring middle classes. Had he been more perceptive, he would have recognized the strenghts and weaknesses of both masscult, midcult, and his own precious highcult. But I find there’s something appealingly tragic about a critic who lives in the United States in the middle of the 20th century, which to me is one of the world’s golden ages, yet who stubbornly refuses to appreciate this fact. This book is a collection of a last stands for lost causes. It’s beautiful.