American Mythologies

American Mythologies

by Marshall Blonsky, Blonsky
     
 


What's it like to witness the moments that define a culture? Marshall Blonsky spent four years on three continents as a fly on the wall-- albeit one with a doctorate in semiotics--watching the dreammakers of international culture construct the attitudes and lifestyles of the early 90s: Giorgio Armani, in his Milan studio, sketching a faux humble sack suit that…  See more details below

Overview


What's it like to witness the moments that define a culture? Marshall Blonsky spent four years on three continents as a fly on the wall-- albeit one with a doctorate in semiotics--watching the dreammakers of international culture construct the attitudes and lifestyles of the early 90s: Giorgio Armani, in his Milan studio, sketching a faux humble sack suit that will usher in the penitent 90s...Vanna White in gold lamé, sitting in her private hair studio wondering if Ted Koppel is mocking her...Costa-Gavras, cradling his son in Paris, revealing a secret about TV commercials... Stephen King describing a ghost he saw while laying his wife's coat on a bed at a party...Peter Greenaway turning deconstruction into chic films for those of us with a case of culture-ache...Yevgeny Yevtushenko cooking lunch in Moscow, telling a hair-raising tale about the former Soviet Union.
Logging the air miles from Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Milan, Moscow, and Beverly Hills, Blonsky tells a mischievous, impudent tale of life and thought at the top of the cultural tower. When Russian TV star Vladimir Pozner calls him an agent (in whose service, he doesn't know) he touches on a device of this book. The author made himself a protean character, a soft-outlined creature now giving advice to "Nightline" producers, now pitching in on a porn shoot, now falling in behind Donald Trump on the dais of a Reagan banquet. He lived four years like an inquiring Rohrschach test, making his subjects show and tell "too much"--and thus give away the store. "He tricked me, seduced me," Merv Griffin said after the encounter. But the author is too mercurial to be merely a trickster. He is more a kind of Don Quixote travelling across our landscape of ugliness and deadly play, convening what is, in effect, a global town-meeting.
TV anchors, artists, film directors, designers, photographers, writers, and editors: what they comprise is no less than a hidden order--a cultural power structure as important as the economic one. Whether grave, frivolous, boastful, or drunk, they enable us to grasp the logic of the ethical and cultural systems they are concocting to suit our new age of faxes and cellular phones, laptops and robots. They are creating a United States of Capitalism, an archipelago of privilege in a sea of misery. Who's in this archipelago? Who's out? American Mythologies decodes the unforeseen shifts in world power (including America's much debated "decline") while sketching in the coming shape of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wielding semiotic theory like a scalpel, Blonsky removes the European filter from the study of signs and slyly decodes America's multitudinous myths. He deciphers the name ok? Pepsi (``signifying nothing at all''), the Marlboro Man, Vanna White (``a version of Venus''), John Gotti, pornography and McDonald's. His dense, convoluted first-person narrative winds from the underground hell of New York City's subways to the glitzy ethereal realm of Hollywood game shows. Along the way he interviews Ted Koppel (``A television priest . . . principled and self-effacing''), Helmut Newton, Pat Robertson, Umberto Eco and Merv Griffin. Blonsky, who teaches semiotics at Manhattan's New School for Social Research, discusses horror with Stephen King in Maine, fashion with Giorgio Armani in Milan and American culture with Yevgeny Yevtushenko near Moscow. His contextual readings generate more sparks than light. Illustrated. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Powerful myths make sense of people's lives. Blonsky's myths involve speed, sex, and possession--manifestations of ``energy,'' ``the new name for God.'' According to Blonsky, people with enough energy are supposed to find themselves (the modern salvation). Television projects us into these myths through performers like Vanna White, who become everything to everybody by seeming to be both perfect and nothing in themselves, and figures like Ted Koppel who, equally hostile to everyone, can be the vehicles of all dislikes. Blonsky joins the mythmakers in a series of interviews--themselves speedy and blurred--that tell us more about him than about his subjects. A semiotician who has taught at several colleges, Blonsky gave up books to confront reality in TV studios, porn shows, ad agencies, and lectures by Umberto Eco. But he avoids Iowa pig farms, Harvard classrooms, and Quaker meetings, where his myths might have come unstuck. White teases him by suggesting that his myths are more enjoyed than believed, and readers will probably agree.-- Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195050622
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/16/1992
Pages:
560
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.36(d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Marshall Blonsky, who has taught critical theory at Vassar College, is now a professor at New York University and the New School for Social Research. He is a frequent contributor to Harper's, The Washington Post Outlook, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and other publications.

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