Essay: The Triumph of Pap Culture

Summertime is the season for sanctioned cultural slumming, or so holds a seldom examined article of American folklore. The basic notion is hinted at by language that appears all the time in cultural journalism—"summer entertainment," "summer movies," "summer reading." Such phrases suggest that it is all right for respectable Americans to indulge their appetites for cultural cotton candies when it is too hot to digest quality stuff. Anybody caught at the beach reading something other than Proust or Nabokov is thus assured of amnesty.

The folklore is sound as far as it goes, but it does not go nearly far enough. Cultural...

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