A Sad and Maladroit FiestanMorris Dickstein: The Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties;nby Christopher ManionnWien I told a friend who raised hernchildren during the sixties that this booknwas a cultural history of that period, shenreplied: “It must be pretty short.” Andnshe would have been right, had the authornwritten just that. Instead, MorrisnDickstein, who was there, wants to tellnus “what it felt like” to grow up in thensixties, which he entered as an undergraduatenat Columbia, fresh from annorthodox Jewish background, to becomena graduate student at Yale and a teachernat Columbia as the period wound down.nIt would appear that he never got over anhundred miles away from New York,nand it shows.nThe Education of Morris Dicksteinnmight be the title of the real book whichnis neither cultural history nor merencriticism; rather than combine the twonapproaches, an admittedly challengingntask, the author presents us with considerationsnof literature surrounded by—nand orbiting around—politics. Much ofnthe critical material seems to be previouslynpublished work from The NewnYork Times Book Review and PartisannReview. But at the center and aroundnthe edges, it is possessed of one simplenmessage: the fifties, which nurturedneverything bad — repression,nMcCarthyism, the Rosenbergs, grey flannelnsuits and the Cold War—were fol-nChristopher Manion, a graduate of NotrenDame and an officer of the RockfordnCollege Institute, is a guitarist who witnessednfirsthand the rise and fall of thenWoodstock generation.n16nChronicles of CulturenBasic Books; New York, 1977.nlowed by everything Dickstein had learnednto love: liberation in literature, innsexual norms, in politics and the imagination.nAllen Ginsberg, one ofnDickstein’s favorites, called it “magicnpolitics”—“poetry and theatre sublimenenough to change the national will andnopen up consciousness in the populace.”nDickstein points out that this may benfound wanting in practical possibilities,nbut “preserves its appeal as a vision.”nMagic, of course, implies the forcingnof a spirit—good or evil—to break thennatural order of events when it is cornerednby the right formula. The notion isnnot new to history. Hegel, for whomnDickstein expresses a certain affinity,ndabbles in magic when “solving” then”riddle of history.” And Friedrich Schiller,nin his inaugural lecture as a historian atnthe University of Jena just prior to thenFrench Revolution, calls on his listenersnto create “artificial links” to connectnotherwise meaningless events of the past,nlinks forged by the writer’s imaginationnand inspired by the demands of presentdaynevents. Then, he goes on, we cannmake the reader believe what we wantnhim to believe (and what he would otherwisenreject) by means of an “optical illusion”nwhich will make him feel better.nDickstein’s modern sages call it relevance.nThis does not imply that Dicksteinnand Ginsberg, would actively attempt tondeceive, only that visions such as theirs,nhowever acquired, often collide withnreality so forcefully that they can benpreserved only by “magic”—willful alterationnof perceived reality by the invocationnof slogans, ideological diatribes, ornrepression of conflicting evidence; suchnnnvisions are then accepted as “secondnrealities” which replace the real thing soneffectively that further repression becomesneither unconscious or unnecessary.nThe painstaking process of investigationnis dominated by, or replaced by, an unabashednembracing of the vision. It isnthe light of his own vision, then, thatnDickstein wants to shed on developmentsnwhich have left “some people feelingnpuzzled or confused.”nDickstein’s illumination amounts to antwo-toned appeal to the good old “blackand-white”nwhich even his favoritenwriters would eschew as “too simplisticnfor the complex problems of today.” Henenvisions the fifties much as a contemporaryncivilized being might imagine thenNeanderthal period. For all its criticalntrappings, this is a fundamentally politicalnbook, and Dickstein hails the politicalnturn which all religion and literature tooknin the sixties. The evil fifties mentalityngives way to the bountiful sixties mentalitynwhich overcomes the repression likenD.H. Lawrence’s “new shoots of lifenspringing up and slowly bursting thenfoundations.” And one must realize thatnthe sixties is just a state of mind, thatnthis process can happen any time, anywhere.nIf you went to Columbia in thenlate fifties, you were already there. Ifnyou agree with Dickstein’s political views,nyou’re still there. It’s kind of a privatenMagical Mystery Tour Once you are ablento wake up and assess the reality withnfairness of mind and heart, you may findna lot of rubbish and dirt. But that’snanother story.nBut there is good news: For those whonwant an insight into the handful of rocknmusicians and the few dozen writersn