Mass Culture, compiled by Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White, is the first book that has ever tempted me to apply the reviewer’s cliche, “definitive.” The theoretical, historical, statistical, cultural, anthropological, depth-analytical, polemical, prophetical articles in it on TV, the movies, pulp fiction, advertising art, etc., more than exhaust their subject. I should like to believe that it will now be considered closed for some time to come. “On peut finir avec la sculpture,” Giacometti once said to me. If it is possible to be done with an art—and this is an age when artists keep trying to finish theirs off—it ought likewise to be possible to make an end to talk about comic books and science fables.
I confess that one of the reasons I hope that the wares of the cultural supermarket will now be left for their proper customers is that I find something annoying about the mental cast of those who keep handling the goods while denying any appetite for them. True, some of my best friends are mass-culture analysts. Naturally, I am not referring to any of them. Most have taken only one or two shots at the matter, and I know none who has not had better things to say on some other topic. The people I am complaining about are the mass-art specialists, particularly the profound ones, those who can’t switch to Channel 4 or roll over with a paperback without beholding hidden patterns of the soul and society of contemporary man.
As if there weren’t already too much talent and intellect in America steadily draining into the dreck of the mass media! Must the mite of the PhD and the literary critic be tossed in too? With so much bought interest in bad art, there would hardly seem any need for volunteers. Particularly, when one considers the shrinking quantity of thought being devoted to anything worth while.