Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Halberstam, Spillane, & Hays (and Cleve Adams)

Mario Taboada (
Wed, 29 Jul 1998 12:34:30 +0000 Victoria:

<<I just got done reading _The Fifties_, and it does have coverage of
Spillane, albeit most specifically in tandem with McCarthy, HUAC, and
Spillane's anticommunism. (In fact, it has as many pictures of Spillane
as it does of Mamie Eisenhower, which proves. . .something.)>

Thanks for refreshing my memory. Yes, he does mention Spillane ("a
one-man industry"), adding that he sold zillions of books, but (as you
say) he mainly concentrates on Mike Hammer's anticommunism. There is no
discussion of the paperback revolution, of an entire generation of
authors who helped shape culture in a nonnegligible way. Even in the
treatment of HUAC and related calamities, Halberstam doesn't really
stray from a bonhomie that hardly fits the topic. It's a Reader's Digest
treatment - or at least, so it seems to me. To be fair, Halberstam's
book isn't meant to be a treatise on popular culture or literature but a
general overview. Still, I found it very shallow and often ambiguous as
to cause and effect, for example.

<<Also, while there was not a comprehensive section on the Hays code, I
thought that the section on Tennessee Williams, specifically on the
changes that had to be made in _A Streetcar Named Desire_ before it
could be filmed (e.g. the studio wanted to cut the rape scene) gave what
seemed to be a pretty good example of how the industry worked.>>

He doesn't discuss censorship in any serious way. It's all incidental to
this particular case, and the power to censor content seems to be
implicitly accepted.

<<Further, it seemed to me that Halberstam went to considerable lengths
to debunk "rosy Doris Day Hollywood", not only in his movie & TV
sections (see, e.g., treatment of such iconic images as _I Love Lucy_
and _Ozzie & Harriet_)...>>

While he points out the obviously unreal images of families, the
genders, race, and so forth that were normal fare on TV, he shows
affection for those same fantasies. This detracts a lot from his
criticism - which, incidentally, never mentions institutionalized
censorship. It's as if a few bad people did some misguided things
strictly by themselves some of the time, but the overwhelming majority
were good and wholesome and happy. That undermines his thesis (which is
correct!) that the fifties paved the way for the great changes in the
behavior of individuals that occurred in the sixties.

[snip on the Beats, so as not to bore everyone silly]

<<Did we read the same book? :)>>

I'm sure we did, but perhaps with different expectations (??). In an 800
page history of the fifties, I expected *a lot* of nontrivial and
previously unavailable documentation, but perhaps I'm spoiled by Noam
Chomsky. As it is, I found the book trite, bland, and ideologically

The Denton regime imposes a strictly obligatory hardboiled content to
each post. I'll thus end by recommending Cleve Adams (whose 1944 novel
"Decoy" I found by chance and asked about last year)... as a prime
example of the racist and bigoted hardboiled author. Adams can easily
compete with Spillane (and with the great Latimer). By the way, my
reading confirmed Eddie Duggan's report on Adams following my inquiry
here. I am not eager to extend further credit to Cleve.

Regards to all, and please excuse the length, quotes and counterquotes,
and level of babble in this late-night post. It won't happen again. It's
the damn blank page!

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