Seymour Krim: angry, ambitious, and self-mocking
Missing a Beat:
The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim (Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art)
by Mark Cohen
Syracuse University Press
$29.95 List Price
First came the Beats, then the hipsters, then the hippies: all within thirty years of World War II. By the 1980s, American countercultural radicalism had exhausted itself, but during its gloriously hectic run it had performed nobly enough that today it is (rightly) credited with having brought about indelible change in our politics, our social attitudes, our arts. Perhaps, most especially, our arts. It was 1950s realpolitik that did it. What had it meant, after all, to have won the fight against Nazi Germany only to be living within the straitjacket of cold-war anxiety?
In the late 1940s, early '50s, young writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, thought that they and their friends were a sacred company of inspired madmen destined to convert the poisoned atmosphere of America's atom-bomb politics into one of restored beauty. They saw themselves as underground men bringing enlightenment to a purblind nation. Their own lives would become metaphors for the spiritual destruction the country was inflicting on itself. Yes, they would write about themselves and one another and, out of that raw material, make political art.
There were dangers attached to this kind of work. At the heart of the enterprise lay an essence of self-regard that made the writing of these men rise often to unmatched levels of verbal glitter and daring, while its intensely narrowed scope threatened to rule out sympathy for, much less interest in, any character on the page other than the narrator. Yet out of all the word-noise they created came not only successful but influential works: "
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