Albert Maysles PATRICK MacFADDEN - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The salesmen of Salesman] are driven by an antic demonology: the ethic of individual entrepreneurialism rages like a hectic in the blood. The commanding heights of the economy already scaled by the faceless inter-locking directorates of the billion-dollar corps., only the marshlands are left to direct selling—encyclopedias, books of Knowledge, door-to-door Bibles—all the bric-a-brac of social improvement. But the salesmen have pride in their craft, their self-image that of cottage artisans deluged by an earlier shift in production relationships. (p. 12)

Selling is freedom; but it is also survival. One false cadence, an over-eager handshake, a too-familiar confidence and all is lost. Back out to the chilling street, briefcase obstinately full….

The Maysles Brothers finally home in on Paul Brennan, the Thomas beginning to doubt. And doubters are not allowed. Kennie the sales supervisor knows that "one bad apple can destroy the whole barrel." (p. 13)

Paul is beginning to slip. The harvesting is thin, the glibness shows signs of wear-and-tear. He is losing "credibility," suffers from "negative thinking"—a thought process that Marcuse has fingered as the element most frightening to the social engineers of the manipulated society….

Why is Paul coming to the end of the road? The Maysles record his spontaneous Joycean dialogue with himself, his uneasy humming, the silent...

(The entire section is 536 words.)