Sunday, August 08, 2010

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... The PICTURE: Midcult Revisited. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Van Wyck Brooks was one of the first to seriously discuss the terms "highbrow" and "lowbrow." But he deplored their use, rightly sensing the snobbery that underlies them. I remember when Macdonald's essay came out. I have never found it entirely persuasive. The Old Man and the Sea is hardly a bad a book, and Our Town is actually a pretty impressive play. When you consider how much of what Macdonald would have regarded as masscult -- films like Casablanca or Singin' in the Rain -- is now thought highly of as art, and that one of the novels he savagely denounced as midcult -- James Gould Cozzens's By Love Possessed -- is in fact much better than Macdonald realized, then one can only conclude that Macdonald himself was perhaps in the grip of his own brand of snobbery. A true artist can turn his hand to practically anything and make art out of it. Mozart would have had no problem writing film scores or, for that matter, tunes for advertising. And they would have been catchy tunes, I'll bet.

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