Lenny Bruce BENJAMIN DeMOTT - Essay

BENJAMIN DeMOTT

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

At one level [Bruce's] pitiable disasters amount only to another standard-form show biz fall—a chapter to be fitted between, say, James Dean and Janis Joplin. But at a different level the story moves out through the politics of obscenity to broad themes of responsibility—a range of unmet and largely unacknowledged moral and pedagogical obligations flowing from the intensified egalitarianism of the present age. Bruce's agonies, viewed in the latter perspective, cease to seem merely accidental or personal. And the reckoning made of them, by those who from year to year recover the performer to memory, emerges as a guide to conventional wisdom across the spectrum of contemporary cultural politics. (p. 88)

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(The entire section is 639 words.)