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The Noir Forties: The American People From Victory To Cold War

Chat with Richard Lingeman about his new book, hosted by Richard Kreitner.

From one of our finest cultural historians, The Noir Forties is a vivid reexamination of America’s postwar period, that “age of anxiety” characterized by the dissipation of victory dreams, the onset of the Red Scare, and a nascent resistance to the growing Cold War consensus.

Richard Lingeman examines a brief but momentous and crowded time, the years between VJ Day and the beginning of the Korean War, describing how we got from there to here. It evokes the social and cultural milieu of the late forties, with the vicissitudes of the New Deal Left and Popular Front culture from the end of one hot war and the beginning of the cold one—and, longer term, of a cold war that preoccupied the United States for the next fifty years. It traces the attitudes, sentiments, hopes and fears, prejudices, behavior, and collective dreams and nightmares of the times, as reflected in the media, popular culture, political movements, opinion polls, and sociological and psychological studies of mass beliefs and behavior.

Richard Lingeman: I have served on the board of P.E.N., and the council of the Authors Guild. I joined the National Book Critics Circle at its inception. I am also a member of the Society of American Historians. Following the appearance of Small Town America, I spoke at several symposiums on small town problems and became a member of the board of the Small Town Institute (now defunct). In 1988 I was an American Participant for the U.S. Information Agency, lecturing on small town America and The Nation in five European countries. I have also made a number of speeches on Theodore Dreiser at colleges and libraries in the United States. I served on the non-fiction and biography juries for the Pulitzer Prize and the jury for the Parkinson Prize for the Society of American Historians. I was awarded a 1997 Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete a biography of Sinclair Lewis. I am on the editorial board of American Literary Naturalism, successor to Dreiser Studies. (Nation/Perseus Books)