Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 14

loans after
But, because we were tired of Great Causes, there was
no more than a short outbreak of moral indignation.... "
Instead of indignation there was a carefully cultivated air of
amused indifference to the whole business of public affairs.
a gen–
eral way you thought the socialists were right about our society, and
you were sickened by the earnest hypocrisy of politicians .and profes–
sional moralists, but public affairs seemed remote and insignificant,
and, for the most part, quite hopelessly absurd: Mencken compared
the superior intellectual in America to a man in a zoo. Fitzgerald docu–
mented this view in a characteristically smart passage in
The Beautiful
and Damned:
[Anthony] tried to imagine himself in Congress rooting around in the
litter of that incredible pigsty with the narrow and porcine brows he saw
pictured sometimes in the rotogravure sections of the Sunday newspapers,
those glorified proletarians babbling blandly to the nation the ideas of
high-school seniors! Little men with copy-book ambitions who by medio–
crity had thought to emerge from mediocrity into the lustreless and un–
romantic heaven of a government by the people....
"Life," as he recalled long afterwards, "was largely a personal mat–
ter," and this personal matter consisted mostly of an assertion, often
deliberately extravagant and calculated to shock the old lady from
Dubuque, of the virtues of hedonism which had been ignored and
denied by her. Very few stopped to wonder, with Walter Lippmann,
"Who knows, having read Mr. Mencken and Mr. Sinclair Lewis, what
kind of a world will be left when all the boobs and yokels have crawled
back into their holes and have died of shame?" As long as the boom
lasted, as Malcolm Cowley has pointed out, it was possible to ignore
American society as an obscure mess, to concentrate on the pleasant
was easy to think it was all
pour le sport
and that you were
much too committed to doing what was fun or "interesting" ever
to sink to earnestness about a career or society. "Suppose," said Cole
Porter with devastating finality to the suggestion that he make a career
of music, "I had to settle down on Broadway for three months just
when I was planning to go to Antibes."
Carl Van Vechten's Campaspe, precisely because of her self–
conscious smartness, probably fairly represents the model attitude
which the period wanted to affect:
1...,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,...100
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