What contributed to American culture after World War II? And other letters to the editor


For the editor:

David Oshinsky’s scholarly review of Louis Menand’s “The Free World” (May 16) highlights the positives of American life that are often overlooked in early Cold War histories.

As comprehensive as the book and the review are, one wonders about the many important factors that are omitted from Oshinsky’s review, but which also contributed to America’s cultural ascent. Certainly, for example, the development of musicals on Broadway and elsewhere (Rodgers and Hammerstein, “My Fair Lady”, “West Side Story”, “Camelot”, “The Fantasticks”) has been as important as “Bonnie and Clyde”. . Then there is George Balanchine, Leonard Bernstein’s Concerts for Young People, the construction of Lincoln Center and the triumph of Van Cliburn.

This period also saw the rise of folk music, creating international stars like Odetta, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. Jazz continues to flourish and add to America’s fame through Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Benny Goodman.

Even television brought political conventions into homes, while making and breaking political careers through the Checkers speech and the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Beyond that, Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now”, Jack Paar, “Playhouse 90” and “The Twilight Zone” are worth mentioning. There was certainly a conscious but reasoned examination of American society through social criticism in books like ‘The Lonely Crowd’, ‘The Status Seekers’, ‘The Affluent Society’, ‘White Collar’, ‘The Other America’ and “The Female Mystique.”

America’s cultural reputation has also been boosted by the integration of professional sports, with the likes of Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain setting new records. We also think of scientific and technological developments, from the Salk polio vaccine to transistors to the space program that helped make America a world leader.

Oshinsky’s discussion of the period is truly captivating, but would be enriched and strengthened by the inclusion of these elements.

Burt R. Cohen

For the editor:

Fortunately for history and for Book Review readers, Andrew Solomon’s review of Katie Booth’s “The Invention of Miracles” (May 2) notes his determination to “burn [Alexander Graham] Bell’s legacy to the ground” and somewhat tempers the damage caused by the inaccuracies and distortions of his book.

As today we seek, often rightly, to reassess great leaders of the past, it helps to understand the times in which they lived and to seek accuracy. Bell did not want deaf people to be “eradicated” by prohibiting their marriage to each other. He told Gallaudet students, “I have no intention of interfering with your freedom of marriage.” Bell did not try to “eradicate” deaf culture, as Booth also claims, but in fact signed up with his deaf mother and wife, in addition to lip-reading and speech therapy. Also, signing in Bell’s day meant time-consuming finger spelling, not modern ASL

If Bell were alive today, I bet he would support both ASL and new technologies to make sound accessible to the deaf.

Sara Grosvenor
Chestertown, Maryland

The writer is president of the Alexander and Mabel Bell Legacy Foundation and great-granddaughter of the inventor.

For the editor:

I feel like I watched what will turn out to be the greatest moment in the history of book review, perhaps the greatest author comeback to a “bad” review of all time. ! Cynthia Ozick’s poem in her letter to the editor (May 16) is a triumph! “For the blow that Shriver gave / May she never be shrunken!” Genius!

Suzanne Adler
West Orange, New Jersey

For the editor:

I was delighted to see Stacey Abrams, in her By the Book interview (May 9), introduce our distinguished Canadian treasure Robertson Davies to a potential new readership. He was a prolific writer of great depth and variety. His novels are complex – stories within stories, interesting characters and intricate plots examining the human condition.

Robertson was also a devoted playwright, critic, journalist, teacher and columnist. In the 1970s, the Deptford Trilogy was required reading in high school in my small Ontario town. I have enjoyed them at least three times since.

Debra Dolan
Vancouver, British Columbia


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