On America in the Sixties
Yesterday I dipped into the manuscript that Julian Miller at Harcourt, Brace & World wanted me to comment on—nuns used as whores by Viet Cong, etc. The correct mythology, which assumes a compound of oversexuality, crude violence, honest bourgeois privatism, native American honesty, a bit of lesbianism for kicks. In other words, a pile of stupid shit. What revolted me was not so much the sex as the attitude—the mixture of superficial objectivity and Time-Life self-righteousness—and the suburb sophistication. America as she sees herself. The kind of America that makes Norman Mailer vomit—and me too.
It always gets back to the same thing. I have dutifully done my bit. I have been “open to the world.” That is to say, I have undergone my dose of exposure to American society in the ‘60s—particularly in these last weeks. I love the people I run into, but I pity them for having to live as they do, and I think the world of U.S.A. in 1967 is a world of crass, blind, overstimulated, phony, lying stupidity. The war in Asia slowly gets worse—and almost more inane. The temper of the country is one of blindness, fat self-satisfied, ruthless, mindless corruption. A lot of people are uneasy about it but helpless to do anything against it. The rest are perfectly content with the rat race as it is, and with its competitive, acquisitive, hurtling, souped-up drive into nowhere. A massively aimless, baseless, shrewd cockiness that simply exalts itself without purpose. The mindless orgasm, in which there is no satisfaction, only spasm.
May 27, 1967, VI.239