The Decade of 1960 in American Literature

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      The alienation, stress and turbulent underlying the 1950s found outward expression in the 1960s in the United States in the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, anti-war protests, minority activism, and the arrival of a counter culture whose effects are still being worked through the American society. The notable political and social works of the period include the speeches of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the early writings of feminist leader, Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique, 1963), and Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night (1968), about 1967 anti-war march.

      The peace of 1960 was marked by the blurring of the dividing line between the fiction and reality, novels and reportage that has carried through the present day novelist Truman Capote who had dazzled readers as an enfant terrible of the late 1940s and 1950a in such works as Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) stunned audiences with in Cold Blood (1966) - a riveting analysis of a brutal mass murder in the American heartland that read like a work of detective fiction. At the same time, the new journalism emerged voluminous of non-fiction that combined journalism with techniques of fiction, or that frequently played with the facts, reshaping them to add to the drama and immediacy of the story being reported. Tom Woolf s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) celebrated the antiques of the novelist Ken Kesey’s counter counterculture wanderlust and Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970) ridiculed many aspects of left-wing activism. Wolfe later wrote an exuberant and insightful history of the initial phase of the U.S., space program - The Right Stuff (1979) and a novel The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), a panoramic portrayal of the American society in the 1980s.

      As the 1960s produced, the literature flowed with the turbulence of the era. An ironic, comic vision also came into view reflected in the fabulism of several writers. The examples include Ken Kesey’s darkly comic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) a novel about life in a mental hospital in which the wardens are more disturbed than the inmates. Richard Brautigan’s whimsical, fantastic Trout Fishing in America (1967). The comical and fantastic yielded a new mood half-comic and half-metaphysical in Thomas Pynchon’s paranoid, brilliant, V (1963) and The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), John Barthes’s Giles Goat Boy (1966) and the grotesque short stories of Donald Barthelme, whose first collection Come Back, Dr. Caligari was published in 1964.

      In different directions, in drama, Edward Albee produced a series of non-traditional psychological works - Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), A Delicate Balance (1966) and Seascape (1975) that reflected the author’s own soul-searching and his paradoxical approach. At the same time, the decade saw the belated arrival of a literary talent in his forties - Walker Percy, a physician by training and exemplar of the southern gentility. In a series of novels, Percy used his native region as a tapestry on which to play out intriguing psychological dramas. The Moviegoer (1961) and The Last Gentleman (1966) were among his highly praised books.

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