Horizon, Autumn 1967(Part 3): Horizon Examines its Contemporaries

dancingNon-catastrophizing, low drama: Horizon is consistently low-angst about the cultural and political upheavals of the day.  The photo and its caption above are rather characteristic: once you notice that continuity is of the essence, you’ll see there’s no big reason to freak out.  More broadly, Horizon tends towards a calm, somewhat detached, often bemused, approach even toward far more worrying phenomena than miniskirted mod girls.  What follows is more of an annotated/illustrated list of examples than a sustained argument, but I believe that the general trends sketched out above emerge clearly.

In the excerpt below Horizon is, in fact, a tad wound up, but not about the hippie youth and their shenanigans, which are really not worth fussing about, on balance:


Allen Ginsberg shows up yet a second time in this same issue as a sort of stand-in for the contemporary alternative culture.  A non-militant choice for Horizon to make: perhaps a tad…flamboyant, but a peaceful poet with solid intellectual legitimacy. Here’s his second appearance, a tangential one again.  The article is about “the lively new world of poster art” and the associated text for the above is as follows: …an explosive poster advertising the avant-garde publication Evergreen Review…. It brashly parodies the “Pepsi-Generation” motif with an effervescent picture of that most un-Pepsilike notable Allen Ginsberg. 


Two further articles in this chosen issue of mine are related to urban planning and address some solutions to the anxieties of modern life.  They once again show Horizon’s tendency to sedately balance the novel and the traditional.  The first looks at the progressively old fashioned planned community of Reston, VA, developed on the assumption that Americans might prefer a well-knit community to the unusual sprawl of detached suburban homes.  The second profiles a sociologist investigating some ways to tweak modern living for the better, coming up with more community-fostering alternatives to  grim urban life, among other of his endeavors, for example by remedying urban-planning wrought alienation by reinstituting traditional neighborhood community features (Jane Jacobs is not mentioned but seems a very in-tune reference).

I briefly and entirely unsystematically  scanned some later issues to see if a similar attitude prevailed, or if later social and political events forced a more cataclysmic approach.

The Autumn 1968 issue started to tip towards the catastrophizing, but note how guardedly:


By 1970, the old approach is apparent once more.  On grave and grim topics, from an article on losing wars, placid, sensible detachment is urged:


Lighter topics appear again.  An article on medieval troubadours (Summer 1970) is similar to the flapper/mod article above: Some aspects of the scene may seem vaguely familiar: scores of long-haired young men roaming the country with stringed instruments under their arms, singing songs that proclaim a sexual revolution– urbane, immensely influential songs that catapult some of their authors into the ranks of the rich and famous.  But the time is the twelfth century, the place is southern France, and the young men in question are known as troubadours….

Peter Gay surveying his then recent book on the Weimar Republic notes that any seeming parallels with contemporary upheavals are non-specific and superficial in the Winter 1970 issue.

The closest my unsystematic search came to an explicit counterexample was an article about the relationship of status and ostentation in fashion history (Summer 1970).  It starts off with big talk about revolution  (Clothes, like so many other aspects of life, have suffered an almost complete revolution)  but the overall tenor ends up more a bemused the more things change, the more they stay the same:


Conservative but not reactionary might be the sum up for Horizon’s approach: detached and a bit cynical (why all this fuss?) and optimistic at the same time.  I was surprised by this as this non-catastrophizing, gradualist, cyclical-with-distinctions historical approach seems rare in contemporary magazine journalism, where this-time-it’s-different seems to be the norm: we’re not kidding this time, high-frequency trading/high fructose corn syrup are what’s really going to wipe out America/the world/the universe.

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Posted in art, history, literature

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