Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book thirty-six: Popular Culture and High Culture by Herbert Gans.

Here's a book I'm not going to spend too much time writing about, mainly because I spent too much time reading it.  Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste Revised and Updated by Herbert Gans is a mostly academic treatise which tries to make the case that the world should pay more attention to popular culture.  I suppose the title should have been a clue that this book is a snoozer.  But in my defense, I read the book on the recommendation of a friend: a friend who HASN'T READ THE BOOK!

Maybe when this book was originally written in 1975, its arguments made more sense.  But I live in a world where well-educated, middle and upper-middle class Americans have no problem vacillating between a day at the museum and a night at a honky-tonk club getting drunk and dancing with the locals.  Oh sure, there are still those culture snobs that will never admit that anything good can come from Rap music.  But does anyone really take them seriously anymore?

Sure, maybe the poor and other under-served communities still don't get the time and attention they deserve on the cultural landscape.  But we're working on it.  And even if the author is right, he makes absolutely no realistic suggestions for how to solve the problem and he even admits that his ideas are impossible.

From my perspective, if you want to explore the wonders of popular vs. high culture, spend an afternoon at the county fair followed by a night at the symphony.  It won't be nearly as time consuming as reading this book and I'll bet you'll get a lot more pleasure from the experience.

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