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The Dustbin of History

de Greil Marcus

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It is the history in the riff, in the movie or novel or photograph, in the actor's pose or critic's posturing - in short, the history is cultural happenstance - that Marcus reveals here, exposing along the way the distortions and denials that keep us oblivious if not immune to its lessons. Whether writing about the Beat Generation or Umberto Eco, Picasso's Guernica or the massacre in Tiananmen Square, The Manchurian Candidate or John Wayne's acting, Eric Ambler's antifascist thrillers or Camille Paglia, Marcus uncovers the histories embedded in our cultural moments and acts, and shows how, through our reading of the truths our culture tells and those it twists and conceals, we situate ourselves in that history and in the world. Again and again Marcus skewers the widespread assumption that history exists only in the past, that it is behind us, relegated to the dustbin. Here we see instead that history is very much with us, being made and unmade every day, and unless we recognize it our future will be as cramped and impoverished as our present sense of the past.… (mais)
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America's dumbest congressman, Louis Gohmert, the "terror babies" godfather, recently used the same Trotzky metaphor that serves as title to this collection of cultural musings. "Dustbin" sounds neither American nor Russian, uncouth nations both that cherish their crap and trash. It is strange, thus, that Trotzky's violent taunt towards his fellow revolutionaries survives in its British idiom. Stranger still is the idea that there is some sort of garbage collection in matters of history. Either Orwell's informational reprocessing or a natural decomposition (a dunghill) seems more apt.

Anyway, this collection by Woody Allen's pop music and history interested West Coast virtual twin contains the author's musings about other author's works from the 1970s to the 1990s, rescuing a critic's ephemera from oblivion and the dust-gathering archives. The republication of articles from a surprising number and range of magazines rescues both the critic's observations and sometimes the critic's object from the harsh truth that few read yesterday's papers and magazines. The author's amusing observations on Hannah Arendt and Susan Sontag, whom he didn't like at all, seem less destined for eternity than his footnotes about the Rolling Stones concert Hell's Angels murder case. The key lesson never to trust a historic source is both the basic assumption of the practice of history and its methodological downfall in post-modernism.

An amusing read, a glimpse into the past similar to an old magazine found in the attic. ( )
  jcbrunner | Aug 8, 2011 |
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It is the history in the riff, in the movie or novel or photograph, in the actor's pose or critic's posturing - in short, the history is cultural happenstance - that Marcus reveals here, exposing along the way the distortions and denials that keep us oblivious if not immune to its lessons. Whether writing about the Beat Generation or Umberto Eco, Picasso's Guernica or the massacre in Tiananmen Square, The Manchurian Candidate or John Wayne's acting, Eric Ambler's antifascist thrillers or Camille Paglia, Marcus uncovers the histories embedded in our cultural moments and acts, and shows how, through our reading of the truths our culture tells and those it twists and conceals, we situate ourselves in that history and in the world. Again and again Marcus skewers the widespread assumption that history exists only in the past, that it is behind us, relegated to the dustbin. Here we see instead that history is very much with us, being made and unmade every day, and unless we recognize it our future will be as cramped and impoverished as our present sense of the past.

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973.9History and Geography North America United States 1901-

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