The Maypole Of Merry Mount

Had Thomas Morton raised his maypole anywhere but next door to the Pilgrims, history and legend probably would have no record of him, his town, or his “lascivious” revels

TIME : Summer, 1628. PLACE : Merry Mount, a small coastal settlement on the edge of the Massachusetts wilderness. “Pilgrim” Plymouth lies somewhat to the south; “Puritan” Boston will not be founded for another two years. ACTION : A group of young revelers, Englishmen and Indians together, dance around a lofty maypole. There is food and drink aplenty; jollity reigns.Read more »

George Orwell’s America

The author of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ never set foot on our shores, but he had a clear and highly personal vision of what we were and what we had been

FOR A WHILE George Orwell thought of calling his novel about life in a totalitarian future The Last Man in Europe. But in the end that title didn’t quite satisfy him, and he chose another simply by reversing the last two digits of the year in which he finished the manuscript.Read more »

The Suburbs

Today more Americans live in them than in city and country combined. How did we get there?

ABOUT SUBURBS, ONLY COMMUTERS know for sure. For single-family houses, lawns, off-street parking, and gardens they endure harrowing round trips by train, bus, and automobile, certain that life in the suburbs amply repays the time and money lost in transit. And they endure the smug jibes of residents of city and country, jibes as old as commuting.Read more »

O.k. The Last Word

When did we start saying it? And why?

FROM THE OIL FIELDS of Indonesia to the tulip fields of Holland to the rice fields of Brazil, a traveler overhears conversations sounding something like this:

FIRSTNATIVE : “Unintelligible unintelligible unintelligible, okay?”

SECONDNATIVE : “Okay.” Read more »

Highbrow, Lowbrows, Middlebrow, Now

Our fascination with categorizing ourselves was fed in 1949 by a famous essay and chart that divided us by taste into different strata of culture. Now the man who invented these classifications brings us up to date.

RUSSELL LYNES , despite being known to his friends as the most amiable of men, is nationally famous as a witty and sometimes acerbic commentator on American society and its manners. Read more »

Barataria

With astonishing tenacity, the people of the rich river-mouth region of the Mississippi have remained what and where they are through two and a half centuries

Just a few decades more, or so we are told, and the process of the homogenization of America will have been completed. All regional personalities will have been sanitized out of existence, and the national culture will be a bland, predictable, and packaged product. Probably this is not a prospect we need immediately contemplate. This is a hell of a big country, as the poet Charles Olson said, and it will take considerably more time and enterprise before it can be so reduced.Read more »

Calm Dwellings

The Brief, Sentimental Age of the Rural Cemetery

Several years ago Thornton’s Mortuary, an Atlanta funeral home, announced a new service available to its customers. It had installed a large plate-glass window facing onto its parking lot so that families who wished to could now avail themselves of a drive-by viewing ceremony.

Rarely has the link between a culture’s way of life and its way of death been shown more graphically. And yet it is a link that always has existed. Read more »

‘A Continuity Of Place And Blood”

The Seasons of Man in the Ozarks

Sometime in the sleep of every year, between the browning of the oaks and the first greening of the spring wild grasses, that country flamed.

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The Hopi Way

ISOLATION ENDS FOR “THE PEOPLE OE PEACE”

Perched on the edge of a rocky mesa six hundred feet above the desert of northeastern Arizona is the Hopi Indian village of Hotevilla.Read more »

More Sock And Less Buskin

In the hands of a rococo Yankee named Clyde Fitch, the American stage came of age with a gasp of scandalized shock

The first-night audience that poured out of Wallack’s Theatre in 1900 must have appreciated the cold February air, for they had just watched a thoroughly shocking play. Sapho , an American adaptation of a minor French novel, had burst upon the New York theatre like a thunderclap. The after-theatre crowds at Rector’s and Delmonico’s gabbled excitedly about what were the most explicit love scenes ever seen on the New York stage. Read more »