Culture and Capitalism
I happened the other day to be listening, while in my car, to a tape of a 1940′s Fibber McGee & Molly radio show. During this particular episode, the McGees were visited by their sweet but milquetoasty neighbor, Mr. Wimple. When asked what he was up to, Mr. Wimple allowed that he was just now doing some writing. Molly McGee, ever commonsensical and intellectually inquisitive, then asked why a certain kind of poetry was called free verse. “Gosh, Molly,” replied Mr. Wimple, “did you ever try to sell any?”
Mr. Wimple was on to something. Free verse—also, one might add, constrained verse—is still not easy to sell in America, or, for all I know, elsewhere in the world. Let me mention a few other cultural items that are not exactly flying off the shelves, either. Among them would be modern dance, verse drama, much chamber music, highbrow and experimental fiction, opera by contemporary American composers, contemporary musical composition generally. Should such art, under the capitalist system that now rules almost unrivaled round the world, be forced to make its way on its own, as do other products and commodities, its demise would not be in serious question. It would, almost all of it, be gone.
About the Author
Joseph Epstein is a regular contributor to COMMENTARY.