Review by Choice Review
Intrigued by the persistent images of physical disfiguration and grotesque bodies in Depression-era prose, Solomon finds the roots of these phenomena in the responses of American writers during this period to selected recreational practices in the US. He focuses on autobiographical writers like Edward Dahlberg and Henry Miller and novelists like Nathanael West and John Dos Passos. These writers, Solomon argues, took aesthetic and political inspiration from "urban manifestations of the carnival spirit": popular entertainment like amusement parks, dime museums, vaudeville, burlesque, and film. Solomon points out that the "language of the grotesque body" inspired by them has particular social and political significance, given their close association with a working-class clientele. He convincingly demonstrates how these writers discovered in popular amusements the possibilities of both subversion and reaction. Along the way Solomon recuperates the reputation of an important writer (Dahlberg), offers an illuminating reading of Nelson Algren's novel Somebody in Boots, and meditates on the language of James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Supplemented with extensive notes, this is a theoretically sophisticated and engagingly written analysis. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers and faculty. J. A. Miller George Washington University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.