Hip Figures dramatically alters our understanding of the postwar American vel by showing how it mobilized fantasies of black style on behalf of the Democratic Party. Fascinated by jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, velists such as Norman Mailer, Ralph Ellison, John Updike, and Joan Didion turned to hip culture to negotiate the voter realignments then reshaping national politics. Figuratively transporting white professionals and managers into the skins of African Americans, these velists and many others insisted on their own importance to the ambitions of a party dependent on coalition-building but t fully committed to integration. Arbiters of hip for readers who weren't, they effectively branded and marketed the liberalism of their moment-and ours.
Michael Szalay is Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of New Deal Modernism (2000).