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Publishers WeeklyThis collection brings together the most memorable writing by influential cultural and literary critic Macdonald. Written in 1960, the title essay argues that American middlebrow culture "pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them." Macdonald claims that artists like Norman Rockwell and magazines, such as Life and Time, that attempt to make art and culture appealing to a mass audience are "degrading the serious rather than elevating the frivolous." He feels similarly about the 1952 Revised Standard Version of the Bible that altered the poetic language to make the text more accessible. The 1961 third edition of Webster's New International Dictionary is taken to task for its all-inclusive approach to language, including slang and grammatical inaccuracies without qualifiers, such as "colloquial" or "erroneous." In the final essay, Macdonald assails Tom Wolfe's shoddy approach to journalism, calling Wolfe's writing "parajournalism"-a mixture of fact and fiction where "entertainment, rather than information is the aim of its producers." Macdonald was a brilliant and influential writer of his time; hopefully this new collection will introduce him to a new generation of readers.
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