The New Yorker and Hannah Arendt
SOME MONTHS AGO, shortly after James Baldwin published in the New Yorker his now famous article about the Negroes, there appeared a mildly satiric comment upon it in the New Republic. The author of this comment elaborated upon the incongruity between Baldwin’s passionate outcry and the sumptuous advertisements surrounding it. At the time I found this mildly irritating, for it seemed very much the sort of thing that highbrows-include me, too-might say without reflection, a kind of pat and automatic criticism based on a pat and automatic opposition to mass culture. After all, Baldwin had reached far more people than if his article had appeared in some little magazine; he had been paid far better than any of these magazines could possibly pay him; and the New Yorker, I was convinced, had not tried to censor his views. Why then complain? Wasn’t it another instance of highbrow sour grapes? What if Baldwin’s cri de coeur was flanked by ads for sleek minks and noiseless racing cars? Intellectual intransigence, I lectured myself, can too easily decline into mere snobbism and self-righteousness.
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