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The life of a nation is told by the lives of its people
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This update features five new essays, with a focus on important American writers and critics. It includes one of the nation’s foremost film critics, Pauline Kael; the noted black nationalist writer and poet Amiri Baraka; Esther Rome, co-author of the feminist bestseller Our Bodies, Ourselves; Chicano poet, artist, and civil rights activist José Montoya; and poet John Ashbery, whose collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1976.
Pauline Kael (1919–2001) was one of the most iconoclastic, controversial, and revered film critics in the history of American print journalism. She was known for the exuberant writing style, her vision of the movies as an unparalleled populist national theater, and her desire in the late 1960s and 1970s to generate a new seriousness and sophistication in American film audiences, directors, and critics. She made movies and movie-going seem at the center of American culture. No critic had done so before with her panache, wit, and zeal.