Think Back on Us: A Contemporary Chronicle of the 1930's

Think Back on Us: A Contemporary Chronicle of the 1930's

Think Back on Us: A Contemporary Chronicle of the 1930's

Think Back on Us: A Contemporary Chronicle of the 1930's

Excerpt

Those of us who belong to the generation of the 1930's run the risk these days of taking them too much for granted. Have you tried recently to describe to your teen-age son, or to a class of skeptical undergraduates, what it was like to grow up during the Depression? To the average Sophomore born around 1947 the 1930's now seem as remote and old-fashioned as the gas-lit 1900's once did to us.

This volume of uncollected essays and reviews by Malcolm Cowley grew out of my need for a source book of college readings in the intellectual, social, and literary history of the Thirties. I wanted something with more unity--and more continuity--than the usual scissors-and-paste anthology provides. I wanted something that would help the younger generation understand why I and so many of my middle-aged contemporaries think the way we do.

In my search I ransacked the back files of The New Republic--the magazine that served more than any other during those years as the intellectual conscience of our generation. I soon realized that the volume I was looking for lay waiting among the literally hundreds of reviews and essays that Malcolm Cowley had written week-in and week-out during the Thirties as literary editor of The New Republic. From these NR pieces I have chosen those that seemed best suited to my purpose. To them I have added several from the period that Cowley published elsewhere.

The result is a collection of penetrating and extremely readable essays by a gifted commentator that also serves as a kind of topical chronicle of one of the liveliest decades in the history of the American mind. It is also an unintended tribute to the old pre-World War II New Republic. For where today . . .

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