Thursday, August 19, 2021

the last book I ever read (Truman by David McCullough, excerpt eight)

from Truman by David McCullough:

The kind of art that had burst upon the public with New York’s Armory Show of 1913—the first big American exhibition of modern paintings, which included Marcel Duchamp’s sensational Nude Descending a Staircase—had no appeal or meaning for Harry Truman. “Ham and eggs art,” he called it. He liked the old masters. His taste in American art, not surprisingly, ran to the paintings of Missouri riverboatmen and Missouri politics by George Caleb Bingham, or the western scenes of Frederic Remington, who had once owned a saloon in Kansas City.

If Harry Truman had even a little interest in the theories of Einstein or Freud, he never said so. Words like “libido” or “id,” so much in vogue after the war, were never part of his vocabulary. Indeed, he despaired over a great deal that became fashionable in manners and mores. He disliked cigarettes, gin, fad diets. He strongly disapproved of women smoking or drinking, even of men taking a drink if women were present. When after much debate Bess decided it was time she bobbed her hair, he consented only reluctantly. (“I want you to be happy regardless of what I think about it,” he told her.) He disliked the very sound of the Jazz Age, including what became known as Kansas City jazz. Life in the Roaring Twenties as depicted in the novels of F. Scott Fizgerald or John O’Hara was entirely foreign to his experience, as it was for so much of the country. He never learned to dance. He never learned to play golf or tennis, never belonged to a country club. Poker was his game, not bridge or mah-jongg. “It was characteristic of the Jazz Age that it had no interest in politics at all,” insisted F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Harry Truman, in those years, discovered politics to be his life work.

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