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MIA: postmodern irony

Mark Bäuerlein "What I've Been Reading" @ First Things' First Thoughts blog

LIFE Magazine, September 6, 1948—It was on the coffee table at a friend's house, and I have just spent the last hour poring over it. There is Joe DiMaggio under the lights slamming a double to beat the Athletics. A few pages later there's an editorial entitled “How Red a Herring?” that recounts “the personal confrontation of Whitaker Chambers, the ex-Communist who is now a valued employee of Time Inc., and Alger Hiss, former State Department bigwig who has been accused by Mr. Chambers of having belonged to a Washington Communist infiltration group.” Photos of the antagonists testifying before Congress appear later. We have a photo essay of ten days in Berlin, where tensions between U.S, British, and Russian troops run high. Another story profiles a Kansas youth movement against “likker,” while another covers the death of Charles Evans Hughes, one-time Supreme Court Justice (he left the Court in 2016 to run for President against Woodrow Wilson). Madison, Wisconsin, we are told, “Is it the best place in America to live?”

There is much more, including the marvelous advertisements (“So many ladies say there is something particularly attractive about a man smoking a pipe . . .”). The whole thing is a time-capsule, pleasing in part because it hasn't a whisper of postmodern irony. It's a rich time-capsule, and I plan to work in to my American literature course a homework assignment next week that will require students to scan several issues of LIFE from this era

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