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The Dustbin of History

Greil Marcus

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ISBN 10: 0674218582 / ISBN 13: 9780674218581
Published by Harvard University Press, 1997
New Condition: New Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Dustbin of History

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

"How much history can be communicated by pressure on a guitar string?" Robert Palmer wondered in Deep Blues. Greil Marcus answers here: more than we will ever know. It is the history in the riff, in the movie or novel or photograph, in the actor's pose or critic's posturing--in short, the history in cultural happenstance--that Marcus reveals here, exposing along the way the distortions and denials that keep us oblivious if not immune to its lessons.

Whether writing about the Beat Generation or Umberto Eco, Picasso's Guernica or the massacre in Tiananmen Square, The Manchurian Candidate or John Wayne's acting, Eric Ambler's antifascist thrillers or Camille Paglia, Marcus uncovers the histories embedded in our cultural moments and acts, and shows how, through our reading of the truths our culture tells and those it twists and conceals, we situate ourselves in that history and in the world. Rarely has a history lesson been so exhilarating. With the startling insights and electric style that have made him our foremost writer on American music, Marcus brings back to life the cultural events that have defined us and our time, the social milieu in which they took place, and the individuals engaged in them. As he does so, we see that these cultural instances--as lofty as The Book of J, as humble as a TV movie about Jan and Dean, as fleeting as a few words spoken at the height of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, as enduring as a Paleolithic painting--often have more to tell us than the master-narratives so often passed off as faultless representations of the past.

Again and again Marcus skewers the widespread assumption that history exists only in the past, that it is behind us, relegated to the dustbin. Here we see instead that history is very much with us, being made and unmade every day, and unless we recognize it our future will be as cramped and impoverished as our present sense of the past.

Review:

Noted critic Greil Marcus contemplates the connections between history and popular culture in this thoughtful collection of essays. He writes about how the Beat Generation is marketed in a three-CD boxed set and ponders the meaning of John Wayne. He recounts his own personal discovery of the work of blues legend Robert Johnson, provoking the reader to consider how one small thing -- in this case an old phonograph record -- can profoundly change a life. And those who marvel at Marcus' ability for close analysis of the seemingly simple may marvel at his brilliant essay, "Dylan as Historian," which analyzes just one apparently simple yet deeply layered song, Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell."

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