Epstein’s great accomplishment (in addition to justifying the attention paid to another Golden Age) is reconciling Astaire’s talent for exuding elegance and grace and still being perceived as an admirable everyman. By the way, it should not go unsaid that Mr. Epstein (with whom I share a childhood upbringing in Chicago’s West Rogers Park) is a writer of great, unpretentious eruditionand thankfully boundless humoras well as a sensible literary critic. Here’s one of his recent reviewsof Patronizing the Arts by Marjorie Garber (whose work I have, in the past, found, uh, infelicitous):
How very different from the old avant-gardethat extending from the French impressionists through Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Arnold Schoenberga movement having chiefly to do with changing technique in the arts. But the avant-garde in the 1980s had turned largely political: It was about one form or another of ethnic or sexual liberation, of protest and leftwing politics. Its chief message tended to run: I’m an outraged gay or lesbianor an angry black man, or an aging sixties radicaland I’ve had it with this detestable bleeping country, with its middle-class respectability, its vaunting of the family, its organized religions, its censorship, and hideous capitalist system. And by the way, nice to learn that I’ve been awarded an NEA grant, and when do you suppose I might receive my check?Nicely and subtly formed argument here, yes?