LitFest ’09 Update: Dancing in the Dark with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

I have two words for you: Google Alerts. These babies are the best way to make sure you get the complete lowdown on what sources are picking up on your programs and talent. They also let you know who has a fabulous publicist. And who, you ask, is the literary talk of the town this week? Morris Dickstein.

In the last few days, Morris Dickstein’s book Dancing in the Dark has hit the stores. His publicist has clearly been hard at work, too. Just check out all these reviews and blurbs that have appeared on the Literary Festival’s Google Alerts:

-The Wall Street Journal “High Spirits at Low Ebb” by Robert K. Landers

The Boston GlobeFight and flight” by Saul Austerlitz

The New YorkerIt Happened One Decade” by Caleb Crain

Los Angeles TimesDancing in the Dark book review” by Richard Schickel

The Washington PostArt for Hard Times” by Jonathan Yardley

So what does this tell us? Well, yes, Morris Dickstein has a great publicist. But it also tells us that this is RELEVANT. Over the last several months, there have been a lot of talk about how “this financial climate” is very reminiscent of the Great Depression. We have all been feeling a little down and out. But here comes Morris Dickstein, reminding us of a very important lesson: good things can come from this.

Not to say the Great Depression wasn’t a difficult time in history, but Morris Dickstein reminds us of all the incredible arts and culture that came out of it. Fred Astaire exploded onto the Hollywood scene, jazz music established itself with the music of Cole Porter and John Steinbeck helped change America’s attitude toward literature. And these are just three of the big names Morris Dickstein discusses in his book.

The discussion has formally begun; what are we going to learn about “this climate” from the Great Depression? What should we expect in the arts in the coming years, and how is our culture going to change?

These questions and more will be explored at Down Economy, Outstanding Art: A Panel Discussion on October 21 at the Washington DCJCCMorris Dickstein will join panelists Philip Kennicott (culture critic at The Washington Post), Laura Katzman (scholar and curator of New Deal art, professor at JMU) and moderator Murray Horwitz (former VP of Cultural Programming at NPR and founding Director of AFI Silver Theatre) in a full discussion and exploration of the topics raised in Dancing in the Dark and what we can learn and expect in the future.


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