Dancing in the dark : a cultural history of the Great Depression

by Morris Dickstein

Hardcover, 2009




New York : W.W. Norton, c2009.


Dancing in the Dark shows how our worst economic crisis, as it eroded American individualism and punctured the American dream, produced in the 1930s some of the greatest writing, photography, and mass entertainment ever seen in this country.

Media reviews

Mr. Dickstein’s best writing, however, is nearly a cure for decaditis... the slightly absurd notion that “slicing the past up into periods of 10 years” is a useful thing to do.

User reviews

LibraryThing member eenerd
An exhaustive look at the publishing and entertainment industries, literature, film, radio, and their audiences just prior to and during the United States' Great Depression. Explains and explores the various writers and other artists and performers who exemplified and flourished during this time, their impacts upon people and the culture as well as each other. Somewhat encyclopedic, I wasn't quite in the mood to get through it, but I think it's an impressive resource nonetheless.… (more)
LibraryThing member Othemts
I'll start off by saying that this wasn't this book I was expecting as I was looking for more of the experience of everyday life in the Great Depression. Upon reflection that would probably be labeled a social history, which is probably obvious to most people, but I thought it worth mentioning in case any potential reader is making the same mistake I did. The other thing I should note is that I listened to the audiobook and had a lot of trouble with the CDs so I probably did not hear the entire book, although I did hear the majority. With that said, the book is actually an exploration of culture created during the Great Depression - films, music, novels, poetry, fine arts and decorative arts - and how they were influenced by the social trends of the time and in turn their effect (or lack thereof) on society. The essays Dickstein writes are thorough and opinionated and often out of my league since they refer to things of which I have no prior knowledge. That being said I did enjoy his critique on artists and performers such as John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, Busby Berkley, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby. Overall this book was not for me but I expect it would be a valuable resource for anyone looking for the light some cultural artifacts of the 1930s shine on the Great Depression.… (more)
LibraryThing member marshapetry
This will probably be a great book to pHD students in literature and history etc. but this book is not a general cultural history of the Depression... it's more like a pHD thesis of The Contrast and Comparison on (various author's books and movies who write about) the depression in Morris Dickstein's opinion. This book sounded just like my high school English Lit class, analyzing what Hemingway, Wright, and other authors wrote in their novels; how some character and/or incident represented part of the depression. He even gets in to whether the authors/movie makers did a good or bad job of respresenting what Dickstein thought they were representing in their books. I kinda got creepy flashbacks to my 30 years ago senior English class... yuck. But then I'm sure there is a segment of readers who love contrast and comparison papers.

So, no, I didn't make it more than a quarter way through so I really don't know if it got better or really finally did talk about the GD itself, and if research papers are your thing you might enjoy this.
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