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In this penetrating collection of original essays, legendary gadfly and esteemed critic Stanley Crouch tackles the notion on authenticity-what it is, what it isn’t, and what we make of it, for good or for bad. While the question of who’s the real deal and who isn’t has now seeped into nearly every corner of American culture, nowhere does the idea of authenticity hold greater sway than in the realm of ethnicity. In this bracing collection of original essays, Crouch brings all his rhetorical skills to bear on this animating-and polarizing-idea, and investigates the motives behind those who present themselves as authentic, those who claim to expose the inauthentic, and what this all tells us about the state of the arts-from the vaulted halls of literary fiction to the arena of soft drink-shilling pop stars-in America today. For Crouch, this is not simply an academic exercise, but a summation of our peculiar historical moment. Living in a time in which much of the conventions that defined and limited people’s futures-whether it be race, class, or sex-have been obliterated, we’re both liberated from bigotries and yet-still-facing profound disillusionment. As influences come and go at breakneck speed, as traditions are remade and re-imagined, it has become hard to tell which metaphorical end is up. The result, Crouch argues, is not only a national paranoia that someone may have put something over on us-i.e. that we have too often been duped into believing that the counterfeit is authentic-but also a deep retrenchment of imagination and artistic expression, from white and black alike. As he promises in his introduction: “This book is an argument with all of that, however sympathetic it might be to the search for alternatives to our disappointments. It hopes to present, through affirmation, a new form of rebellion in our time of cosmetic dissent.”
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