Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s

Overview

Terrible Honesty is the biography of a decade, a portrait of the soul of a generation - based on the lives and work of more than a hundred men and women. In a strikingly original interpretation that brings the Jazz Age to life in a wholly new way, Ann Douglas arugues that when, after World War I, the United States began to assume the economic and political leadership of the West, New York became the heart of a daring and accomplished historical transformation.

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Overview

Terrible Honesty is the biography of a decade, a portrait of the soul of a generation - based on the lives and work of more than a hundred men and women. In a strikingly original interpretation that brings the Jazz Age to life in a wholly new way, Ann Douglas arugues that when, after World War I, the United States began to assume the economic and political leadership of the West, New York became the heart of a daring and accomplished historical transformation.

A portrait of a soul of a generation, the story of the men and women who made New York the capital of American literature, music, and language in the 1920s, Terrible Honesty focuses on brilliant and diverse artists--F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy Parker, Eugene O'Neill, Ernest Hemingway, among others--and on those who influenced them strongly, Sigmund Freud, William James, and Gertrude Stein. of illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald et al. were finding Paris a movable feast, for hundreds of other American artists, writers and musicians who remained at home, Manhattan in the 1920s was a kind of Roman candle hurtling into hyperborean space, its glitter and energy sparking a decade of creativity. And though the expatriates were mining established European cultures, for them, too, Manhattan was their defining center, whether escaping or embracing it. This book is a cornucopia of anecdote and commentary on some 120 stars of the Jazz Age. Douglas (The Feminization of American Culture) devotes considerable attention to the city's impact on the legendary black musicians and theirs on it; to its architectural ebullience; and above all to the literary and publishing mavens who worshipped the integrity of the word-the ``terrible honesty'' of her title. This is a sprawling, erudite, provocative study of an expanding artistic universe that crashed with the Depression and, like it, left a powerful imprint on the American consciousness. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Douglas (The Feminization of American Culture, 1978) here concentrates on Manhattan in the 1920s, with an emphasis on the Harlem Renaissance. More than just a portait of New York in the Jazz Age, this work is a social and intellectual history of the United States. It covers American literature, music, and architecture and discusses the influences of Freud, William James, and matriarchy on early 20th-century thought. Exhaustively researched, the narrative introduces a large cast of protagonists and features lots of anecdotes, plot summaries, and discussion of popular music. Douglas shows how the intellectual life of one city in one decade was such an important part of American cultural history. For informed lay readers and scholars generally.-Gary Williams, Southeastern Ohio Regional Lib., Caldwell
From Barnes & Noble
A lively portrait of the Jazz Age in Manhattan--the writers, musicians, artists, and new thinkers, from Gertrude Stein & Sigmund Freud to Duke Ellington & Irving Berlin, who made it "the capital of the twentieth century." B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374524623
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/31/1996
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Douglas has taught American Studies at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia University, where she is now professor of English and Comparative Literature. Her previously published works include The Feminization of American Culture.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Orphans: Loss and Liberation 3
Pt. 1 Setting the Stage: The Players and the Script
1 White Manhattan in the Age of "Terrible Honesty" 31
"The Awful Truth" 31
"Power's Script" 40
"It is Drama or it is Nothing" 55
Life in the Spotlight 62
2 Black Manhattan Wearing the Mask 73
The Minstrel Tradition and "The Coon Age" 73
A Generation Not Lost but Found 79
Role-Playing and Disguise 98
3 Offstage Influences: Freud, James, and Stein 108
Outside Insiders 108
New York Ties 117
Rival Authorities 129
Mutual Mind Readers 143
4 "You are about to discover yourselves" 149
"A Kind of Magic" 149
"Strike through the pasteboard mask" 155
Modern Mania 167
Pt. 2 War and Murder
5 The Culture of Momentum 179
Ending Cultural Lag 179
A New Imperialism 184
Literary Independence 193
A World Off-Track 202
American Repatriation 213
6 The "Dark Legend" of Matricide 217
Maternal Rebuke and Filial Revolt 217
Dismembering the Mother 225
The Mother's Return 233
Founding Fathers and Titanesses 239
Gender Collaboration 246
7 "Black Man and White Ladyship" 254
Woman Suffrage and the Black Vote 254
The Family Romance Rewritten 266
"Taking up residence in the Black Belt" 272
White Godparents, Black Authors 282
The Benefits of Matricide 292
Pt. 3 Siblings and Mongrels
8 Taking Harlem 303
The Negro and the Immigrant: Finding a Homeland 303
Political Options 312
The Silent Protest Parade 324
The Negro Digs Up His Black-and-White Past 331
The Sleeping Giant Is the Harlem Negro 344
9 Ragging and Slanging: Black-and-White Art 346
Performing for the World: American Parody 346
Black Art in Whiteface 354
Black Originals 364
Getting the Joke 376
10 Singing the Blues 387
The Development of an American Folk Art 387
Black "Terrible Honesty": Reading the Bible 395
Upward and Downward Mobility in the Blues 407
Media Culture and Folk Culture: Instant Appropriation 419
Performance and Instant Assimilation 426
11 Skyscrapers, Airplanes, and Airmindedness: "The Necessary Angel" 434
Manhattan Rising 434
American Masquerade 446
The Rising Generation 454
Epilogue Descent: "I Shall Be More Blessed than Damned" 463
Bibliographical Essay and Selected Discography 485
Index 577
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