The Artificial White Man: Essays on Authenticity

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9780465015153: The Artificial White Man: Essays on Authenticity

In this penetrating collection of original essays, legendary gadfly and esteemed critic Stanley Crouch tackles the notion on authenticity-what it is, what it isn't, and what we make of it, for good or for bad. While the question of who's the real deal and who isn't has now seeped into nearly every corner of American culture, nowhere does the idea of authenticity hold greater sway than in the realm of ethnicity. In this bracing collection of original essays, Crouch brings all his rhetorical skills to bear on this animating-and polarizing-idea, and investigates the motives behind those who present themselves as authentic, those who claim to expose the inauthentic, and what this all tells us about the state of the arts-from the vaulted halls of literary fiction to the arena of soft drink-shilling pop stars-in America today. For Crouch, this is not simply an academic exercise, but a summation of our peculiar historical moment. Living in a time in which much of the conventions that defined and limited people's futures-whether it be race, class, or sex-have been obliterated, we're both liberated from bigotries and yet-still-facing profound disillusionment. As influences come and go at breakneck speed, as traditions are remade and re-imagined, it has become hard to tell which metaphorical end is up. The result, Crouch argues, is not only a national paranoia that someone may have put something over on us-i.e. that we have too often been duped into believing that the counterfeit is authentic-but also a deep retrenchment of imagination and artistic expression, from white and black alike. As he promises in his introduction: "This book is an argument with all of that, however sympathetic it might be to the search for alternatives to our disappointments. It hopes to present, through affirmation, a new form of rebellion in our time of cosmetic dissent."

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About the Author:

Stanley Crouch is a columnist, novelist, essayist, and television commentator. He has served since 1987 as an artistic consultant at Lincoln Center and is a co-founder of the department known as Jazz at Lincoln Center. He is the author of Notes of a Hanging Judge and The Artificial White Man , among other titles. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this collection of essays, some previously unpublished, the notoriously contrarian critic of race-based cultural politics examines the problem of ethnic authenticity in contemporary America. Writing in a characteristically peeved style, Crouch (Notes of a Hanging Judge) is perhaps most cogent in an essay entitled "Most Vote for Literary Segregation, Others Don't," in which he asserts that contemporary American writers, wary of being labeled politically incorrect, rarely write about life beyond the boundaries of their own race and class. Philip Roth's The Human Stain, Danzy Senna's Caucasia and Joyce Carol Oates's I'll Take You There are all novels worthy of special attention, Crouch argues, because, as he shows through careful analysis, each deals insightfully with America's complex weave of interracial tensions. Crouch also enthuses about Jazz Modernism, a book by Alfred Appel Jr.—though not without griping about the so-called "American intellectual community," which he claims has habitually and ignorantly overlooked the cultural significance of jazz as an art form. In typical hard-nosed style, Crouch tears into David Shields's Black Planet, a book about race and the NBA basketball scene. He defines Shields as an "artificial white man," who simplifies "black and white" by underplaying his own (Jewish) ethnic identity. Provocative and anti–radical chic, Crouch's fiercely argued essays take American culture to task.
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