From the Lower East Side to Hollywood: Jews in American Popular Culture

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The contribution by Jews to American popular culture is widely acknowledged yet scarcely documented. This is the first comprehensive investigation of the formative Jewish influence upon the rise and development of American popular culture, drawing upon extensive oral histories with several generations of Jewish artists, little-utilized Yiddish scholarship, and the author's own connections with today's comic-strip artists. Buhle shows how the rich legacy of Yiddish prepared would-be artists to absorb the cultures of their surrounding environments, seeing the world through the eyes of others, and producing the talent required for theater, films, television, popular music and comics.

Buhle suggests that "premodern" and "postmodern" are arbitrary designations here, because the self-reflective content has always radiated an inner Jewishness. From Sholem Aleichem (who died in the Bronx) to Gertrude Berg, Woody Allen and Tony Kushner, from John Garfield to Roseanne Barr and Rube Goldberg to Cyndi Lauper, the cutting edge is never too far from home and humane antidotes to the pains of a troubled world. Contradictions between Jewish avant-garde and kitsch, mogul and artist, orthodoxy and heresy are given new sense here in the scope of cultural output adopted by ordinary Americans as their own. Illustrated with the work of Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Ben Katchor, Trina Robbins and others, From the Lower East Side to Hollywood is full of humor and insight into the power of popular art to spark insight and encourage the endless quest for freedom.

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From the Lower East Side to Hollywood: Jews in American Popular Culture

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Following up on his Radical Hollywood, Buhle, who teaches at Brown University, delivers a rambling, factoid-driven account of the contributions American Jews have made to music, theater, film, radio ... Read full review

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Opinionated, arrogant, full of minor errors due to poor checking, and of of a snot-nosed attitude that explains why the author did not bother checking, this is a book that will add little to your understanding and insinuate many errors into your knowledge of facts. I am quoted, incorrectly, as the publisher of The Jack Kirby Quarterly, published in fact by Chrissie Harper; but that is nothing compared with calling Stan Lee the staff artist of Jack Kirby. Lee was in fact Kirby's editor in chief in the decisive years 1960-1970, and, while a superb art editor - his pick of artists was consistently good and often inspired - was never, to the best of my knowledge, an artist at all. This error must stupefy anyone who knows anything at all about US comics, and it should be enough,alone, to blast any claim of scholarship from this author. Other nonsense from him includes the notion that Kirby's partner in the forties and fifties, Joe Simon, "left him after the war to work for Nelson Rockefeller". The Simon-Kirby partnership broke up about 1958, no less than thirteen years after the war; most of these years had been successful and profitable. Simon's work for Rockefeller was only part of his wide-reaching and successful activity in advertising and publishing, where he gave the best of his creative drive to CRACKED magazine. And I find Buhle's dismissive attitude to Kirby's talent and achievement fairly sickening. Save yourselves money and don't buy this book 


Acknowledgements vii
One Last Look Back

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About the author (2004)

Paul Buhle, formerly a senior lecturer at Brown University, produces radical comics. He founded the SDS Journal Radical America and the archive Oral History of the American Left and, with Mari Jo Buhle, is coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. He lives in Madison.

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