Prefaces

What distinguishes [this book] is the comprehensiveness of its radicalisms—not just in politics and esthetics but literary politics too.

Twenties in the Sixties (1979)

Much of my critical writing confronts the problem of “the new” at a time when the most interesting culture continues to be avant-garde in more ways than one, for a key theme of Twenties in the Sixties, as well as other works of mine, is change—not only in art but thought, not just in subject or “content” but form.

To an extent that would have been inconceivable before 1960, we chose to sample extremes, just to see what might happen; and this riskiness was founded less upon any self-destructiveness than an optimistic faith that whatever we did would somehow “work out.” As children of prosperity, we knew that setbacks were temporary and that even “failure,” if anticipated and acknowledged, could represent “success.” This preference for energy over measure partially accounts for the great shifts in popular taste—away from slick pop music to heavy rock, away from baseball and basketball to football and hockey, away from above-ground movies to the “underground,” away from alcohol to drugs and then to amphetamines over hallucinogens, and these increasingly popular dark pastimes shaped in turn the emerging consciousness of yet younger generations.

Twenties in the Sixties (1979)

It has also been clear to me that, notwithstanding the necessity of debunking, the prime task of truly contemporary criticism is defining order in the superficial chaos of unprecedented cultural experience.

Crimes of Culture (1994)