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Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s Paperback – January 31, 1996

3.5 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"One of the most amazing books on America to appear in recent years. In its sheer ambition, in the utter comprehensiveness of its determination to probe the lived realities of the age, Terrible Honesty stands apart. It sparkles with something like that same vital essence that Douglas locates at the core of the 1920s in the United States [and] is by far the most racially inclusive cultural study of its type by an American scholar."—Arnold Rampersad, The New York Times Book Review

"First rate . . . A lucid portrayal of an era, a persuasive interpretation of a piece of cultural history by a courageous and original scholar."—Jeanne Schinto, The Boston Sunday Globe

"Douglas' dense, rat-a-tat-tat narrative is full of surprises. Few readers probably know that Samuel Goldwyn once offered Freud $100,000 to write a 'love story' for his movie studio . . . An erudite portrait of a dazzling decade and metropolis, both of which had a sense 'of having been a specially privileged and charged site of American experience.' We shall not see their like again."—Time

"While Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, et al. were finding Paris a movable feast, for hundreds of other American artists, writers, and musicians who remained at home, Manhattan in the 1920s was a kind of Roman candle hurtling into hyperborean space, its glitter and energy sparking a decade of creativity. And though the expatriates were mining established European cultures, for them, too, Manhattan was their defining center, whether escaping or embracing it. This book is a cornucopia of anecdote and commentary on some 120 stars of the Jazz Age. Douglas devotes considerable attention to the city's impact on the legendary black musicians and theirs on it; to its architectural ebullience; and above all to the literary and publishing mavens who worshipped the integrity of the word . . . This is a sprawling, erudite, provocative study of an expanding artistic universe that crashed with the Depression and, like it, left a powerful imprint on the American consciousness."—Publishers Weekly

"It is rare when somebody comes along to cast a bright and clarifying new light on a subject that will never again seem the same. But Anne Douglas has done just that in her intensely analytical and, at the same time, readably anecdotal cultural history. The depth of Ms. Douglas' knowledge and her consistent grasp of the complexity of things made her argument a powerful one . . . Her remarkable scholarship is going to set the standard for a long time to come."—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

About the Author

Ann Douglas has taught American Studies at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia University, where she is now professor of English and Comparative Literature. Her previously published works include The Feminization of American Culture.

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