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Myths and morals: a conversation with Edward Mendelson

How eight mid-century American writers tried to shape the culture

By Jonathan Derbyshire  

In 1975, Saul Bellow published an essay entitled “Starting Out in Chicago”. His subject was the distance between the “din of politics,” the sheer amount of “noise” generated by the culture, and the “quiet zone” of contemplation that, he believed, was the condition of genuine thought. “The enemy,” Bellow wrote, “is noise. By noise I mean not simply the noise of technology, the noise of money or advertising and promotion, the noise of the media, the noise of miseducation, but…

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