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Keeping Hope Alive

Looking at it now, the New Deal may have been America's finest moment.

Book Cover Given, as they say, the objective conditions besetting our country (need I list them?), it would not be unreasonable to consider whether the United States (of Embarrassment, to quote Eminem) is yet functional, or perhaps to look for a time when it did work.

A remarkable new panoramic study, When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy (Rizzoli) by Roger G. Kennedy, is a reminder of such a time. The New Deal, arguably the finest moment of governance in U.S. history, provided aid and comfort to a Depression-ravaged nation. Part of that comfort was provided by artists—whose good works this book catalogues with over 450 images, many not frequently or ever published.

Of course, the sentiments and values expressed by New Deal policies and enablers no longer obtain—a lifeboat mentality having overtaken our citizenry and its gaggle of mediocre governors and apparatchiks.

Documentarian Ken Burns gushes, “As usual, Roger Kennedy has hit the nail on the head with this remarkably clear look at the art that came out of one of our darkest hours, an art that not only expressed the struggle, but now stands for much of how we understand it.”

Who knows, maybe Burns will lend his cheerleading historiography to a sensible appraisal of the New Deal. True dat.
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