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Another dance of the bull through the china shop of cliches, The Artificial White Man proves the correctness of Tom Wolfe's observation that Stanley Crouch is "the jazz virtuoso of the American essay." This time out, Crouch focuses his attention on issues surrounding the often misdirected American hunger for "authenticity." Though the essays range in topic from segregation in contemporary fiction to the racial politics of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, they are informed by a singular concern: our increasing difficulty in discerning the real from the counterfeit, the posture from the pose, in contemporary life.Crouch moves across literature, music, sports, film, race, sex, class, and religion with insights withering in one instance, celebratory and challenging in another. Long known as an independent thinker, Crouch takes further intellectual chances in this collection challenging us to live up to the potential of our social contract and our democratic arts. Pointed and provocative, The Artificial White Man is as witty and eye-opening as cultural criticism gets.
In this collection of essays, some previously unpublished, the notoriously contrarian critic of race-based cultural politics examines the problem of ethnic authenticity in contemporary America. Writing in a characteristically peeved style, Crouch (Notes of a Hanging Judge) is perhaps most cogent in an essay entitled "Most Vote for Literary Segregation, Others Don't," in which he asserts that contemporary American writers, wary of being labeled politically incorrect, rarely write about life beyond the boundaries of their own race and class. Philip Roth's The Human Stain, Danzy Senna's Caucasia and Joyce Carol Oates's I'll Take You There are all novels worthy of special attention, Crouch argues, because, as he shows through careful analysis, each deals insightfully with America's complex weave of interracial tensions. Crouch also enthuses about Jazz Modernism, a book by Alfred Appel Jr. though not without griping about the so-called "American intellectual community," which he claims has habitually and ignorantly overlooked the cultural significance of jazz as an art form. In typical hard-nosed style, Crouch tears into David Shields's Black Planet, a book about race and the NBA basketball scene. He defines Shields as an "artificial white man," who simplifies "black and white" by underplaying his own (Jewish) ethnic identity. Provocative and anti radical chic, Crouch's fiercely argued essays take American culture to task.