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PRINT February 1982

books

Hardboiled America

It is time that the American people realized themselves. Broadway is genuine. . . . But in the drawing rooms they think it well to deprecate all this. They want to copy Europe, just as we in Russia insisted for so many years on copying Europe. . . .

—Serge Diaghilev, quoted in Serge Diaghilev, by Richard Buckle

From a nation of immigrants dependent on what Diaghilev saw as a mail-order heritage, America, by the ’50s, had begun to realize the competitive vitality of its own accomplishments, eventually growing so enamored of its immediate past that planned obsolescence pioneered a brand of turnover nostalgia that could find gold in schlock faster than you can eat a McDonald’s Big Mac. Now the question is, how do we honor our visual Broadway with the perspective of real time? The answer lies in a brand of radically telescoped cultural archeology. Digging out the first strata required the

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