The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre and...

Editor's Choice

March 17, 2002|By Michael Pakenham

The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture, by Robert Warshow (Harvard University Press, 302 pages, $18.95).

Warshow died in 1955, of a far too early heart attack, at 37. He was an extrordinarily analytic, smart member of the New York noncommunist intellectual left. Published in Partisan Review, The Nation and Commentary, where he served as movie editor, he was a very influential mind of his times. This is a virtually all-inclusive anthology of his published writings. After a half-century, his political zeal now seems almost ridiculously naive, but his appreciation of the important energies of popular culture -- the vitality of the good stuff in the mass market -- today seems prescient of many of today's soundly accepted values. In rereading his marvelous writings on Charlie Chaplin, E.B. White and "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," I found myself yearning to hear him out on Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. This is both nostalgic and provocative social criticism.

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