1950s: Print Culture
1950s: Print Culture
The 1950s were a decade of tremendous energy in American writing. American writers gained international prominence thanks to the Nobel Prizes awarded to William Faulkner (1897–1962) in 1950 and Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) in 1952. Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea even made it onto the bestseller list for a time. Norman Mailer (1923–) was one of several young writers who gained attention in the decade, thanks to the success of his war novel The Naked and the Dead. Other emerging literary talents included Flannery O'Connor (1925–1964), John Cheever (1912–1982), and J. D. Salinger (1919–). Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye was the most influential novel of the decade. A new group of writers known as the Beats, or beatniks, defied cultural norms and produced a variety of works that were sharply critical of mainstream society. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) and the poem "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) are the most famous of the Beat writings. All these writers remain subjects of study in classrooms today.
American magazine publishing was also energized in the 1950s. Older magazines were dying off and new magazines were being born. A number of general-interest magazines ceased publication in the 1950s, including Collier's (with a circulation of four million), the American Magazine, Woman's Home Companion, and Liberty. Loss of advertising was the primary cause of most magazine deaths, as advertisers looked for more specialized publications that would better reach their target audience. A number of these specialized, or "niche market," magazines were started in the 1950s. Specialized magazines included Sports Illustrated for the sports nut, Playboy for the swinging bachelor, National Enquirer for the gossip hound, and MAD Magazine for fans of twisted humor.
A number of children's favorites were produced in the 1950s as well. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904–1991) was in his prime during the decade, publishing Horton Hears a Who (1954), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), and The Cat inthe Hat (1957). A popular 1950 song about a dancing snowman named Frosty was soon published as a book and then converted into an animated TV show in 1969. Charles Schulz (1922–2000) began publishing a comic strip called Peanuts in 1950 which explored the trials and tribulations of a boy named Charlie Brown and his circle of friends. The gentle strip spoke to Americans young and old and was published for fifty years, until just before Schulz's death in 2000.