The postwar years have been a real flowering of American tradition. Even because the United States was locked in an arms race with the Soviet Union—a battle that culminated within the terrifying doctrine generally known as mutually assured destruction—the nation developed from a army and financial powerhouse right into a cultural presence on the middle of the world. Modern jazz and rock and roll have been exported and celebrated across the globe. Painters got here out of the lengthy shadow of war-torn Europe and led the way in which into new types of abstraction and social commentary. Thinkers like James Baldwin turned a highlight again on America’s basic, unexamined flaws. This interval, in all its sophisticated glory, is the topic of “The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War,” by Louis Menand. Menand is a professor at Harvard University and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, for his ebook “The Metaphysical Club,” from 2001. The cultural historian talks with David Remnick a few time, as Menand writes, when “ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered.”

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