A National Book Critics Circle finalist: "The definitive book about Depression culture for our time."—San Francisco Chronicle
The Joad family's epic journey from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to California, depicted in John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath, has become an emblem of the Depression. But as Morris Dickstein observes in Dancing in the Dark, his cultural history of the period, the Joads weren't the only ones on the move in America's novels, plays, movies, and nightlife of the '30s: there was the hobo crisscrossing the country in the film I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Bigger Thomas on the run in Richard Wright's Native Son, the synchronized showgirls dancing their way through Busby Berkeley productions, clubgoers swaying to the music of Benny Goodman and his orchestra. Much of the previous literature on the Depression has erected a wall between the social criticism of, say, a Clifford Odets play and the lighthearted escapism of a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie. But Dickstein, in a sweeping, significant work, searches out the unifying themes of what he calls the "split personality of Depression culture.