Tuesday, January 05, 2016

What is George Cotkin reading?

Featured at Writers Read: George Cotkin, author of Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility.

His entry begins:
I really wasn’t prepared to make the commitment. The hoopla about the book had been substantial, but I felt immune to it. Then one day, while wandering a bookstore’s isles, I came upon it. Take a peek; no problem. Within a couple of pages, I was hooked. The 900 page plus book was now my constant companion. Even if it sagged a bit in the middle, Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire was compelling in many ways, especially for a first novel. The characters were numerous and diverse, intersecting ingeniously, with personal and political themes interwoven. City on Fire was, in the end, about living in New York City at a particular historical moment, when punk rock was rocking and the investment sector was both reaping it in and being...[read on]
About Feast of Excess, from the publisher:
In 1952, John Cage shocked audiences with 4'33", his compositional ode to the ironic power of silence. From Cage's minimalism to Chris Burden's radical performance art two decades later (in one piece he had himself shot), the post-war American avant-garde shattered the divide between low and high art, between artist and audience. They changed the cultural landscape.

Feast of Excess is an engaging and accessible portrait of "The New Sensibility," as it was named by Susan Sontag in 1965. The New Sensibility sought to push culture in extreme directions: either towards stark minimalism or gaudy maximalism. Through vignette profiles of prominent figures-John Cage, Patricia Highsmith, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Anne Sexton, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Erica Jong, and Thomas Pynchon, to name a few-George Cotkin presents their bold, headline-grabbing performances and places them within the historical moment.

This inventive and jaunty narrative captures the excitement of liberation in American culture. The roots of this release, as Cotkin demonstrates, began in the 1950s, boomed in the 1960s, and became the cultural norm by the 1970s.

More than a detailed immersion in the history of cultural extremism, Feast of Excess raises provocative questions for our present-day culture.
Learn more about Feast of Excess at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dive Deeper.

The Page 99 Test: Feast of Excess.

Writers Read: George Cotkin.

--Marshal Zeringue