Marshall Blonsky American Mythologies

ISBN 13: 9780195050622

American Mythologies

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9780195050622: American Mythologies
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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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About 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.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Now that the car is no longer the center of our technology, ``What is the new order in the making?'' In the style of Roland Barthes, Blonsky (Semiotics/New School for Social Research) sets out ``to decode a series of American myths,'' and the contents of his interviews with assorted celebrities and thinkers are at once astute and entertaining. Superficiality may be at issue (surface ``is an organizing category of the early 90's''), but Blonsky talks perceptively to and about Madonna and Yevtushenko, fashion models and Stephen King, Armani and Umberto Eco as he considers subjects as diverse as the N.Y.C. subway system, American food tastes, and the charm of John Gotti. Blonsky, for his part, is hip, not cynical, aware of his own posturing with particular individuals and temperate with linguistic special effects as he elaborates on signs from codes often ``unwritten and usually unconscious''--fashion, pornography, advertising, horror stories. Several designers tell him how to dress; porn-star Annie Sprinkle has admirers line up for a speculum show; Ted Koppel acknowledges the edge given by distance (e.g., no eye contact) during an interview. Most of Blonsky's interviews here proceed beyond simple revelation (Merv Griffin says Wheel of Fortune home-viewers are supposed to guess the answer before contestants) to more provocative insights (Mario Rollini on connections between thinking and chair-design, or Costa-Gavras's fear that ``we're losing our capacity to be attentive''). Generally, the author directs and shapes the conversation, aware of a concentration on ``art more than truth'' while offering proportioned comments of his own (``American taste is dominated by advertising, and advertising appeals to the visual and social''). Americans have been cued in to bits of this ever since Vance Packard introduced The Hidden Persuaders; with its broad-ranging ideas and worldly accents, though, this book has a rather specific niche/market of its own--big city, university campus, the coasts- -and don't underestimate its power to stimulate discussion about popular culture. (Thirty halftones.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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ISBN 10:  014023781X ISBN 13:  9780140237818
Publisher: Penguin Group USA, 2000
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