09 September 2021, The Tablet

A magisterial history of the Cold War

A magisterial history of the Cold War

The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War
(4th ESTATE, 880 PP, £30)
Tablet bookshop price £27 • tel 020 7799 4064

One day in the summer of 1952 Johanna Jalowetz, a teacher at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, arrived early for the performance of John Cage’s Theater Piece No 1. She wanted the best seat in the house, she told Cage, so as to be able to take in as much of this multimedia work – dance, lectures, music, film, poetry – as she possibly could. Cage smiled. There was no best seat. The show was designed precisely so that nobody could see all of it. As Louis Menand puts it, “the experi­ence of each member of the audience was a function of the direction in which they were looking and the actions to which they elected to pay attention.”

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