There is only one Nation of Ulysses

From the Nation of Ulysses track, "The Sound of Jazz To Come." Transcription found here.

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There is only one Nation of Ulysses: the seriously unserious, reverently irreverent, amoral moralists whose iconoclastic assault on the received pieties of America place them in the front ranks of social critics.

What went into the making of the legend? There was their erudition, their stock of language, their lore in urban sagas, their ransacking of every literature, their knowledge of archaeology and racial history- of kitchen midden and skull measurements. There was the precision with which they knew the homely and workday details of culture as well as the big abstraction, the ease with which they moved about in history from neolithic times to the report of the latest congressional committee.

They were, as has been said, "The last group who knew everything"- and if they did not know quite everything they could distract your attention from the gap by a wry witticism. There were their strange songs, any one of which could have made a lesser band's career and each of which had the knack of standing the accepted doctrines on their head. There was their polysyllabic language and their slow acid style that corroded the sanctities. There were their conce, with their mumbled messages which only the better souls understood. There was the way they looked: shaggy eyebrows, ashen faces with unforgettable eyes, rough clothes that hung too loosely on their shrunken bodies, a shell of silence into which they seemed to have retreated for good and from which only the most persistent strategy could draw them.

They refused to be patronized or dismissed, turned into a cult or giggled at. The important thing was to build a social analysis that would encompass modern culture and make humankind reckon with it.


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