Penguin £12.99 (522pp) £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Morbid Age, By Richard Overy
Friday 23 July 2010
Contrary to the view of the inter-war period as an era of cocktail-powered partying, Overy insists that it had "a strong presentiment of impending disaster". He starts his unexpectedly jolly catalogue of gloom with Oswald Spengler, whose Decline of the West, for Louis Mumford, "whispered the soothing words, downfall, doom, death".
Regarding Hollywood as "morbid", psychologist Cyril Burt advocated such uplifting films as Solving Canada's Fuel Problem for children. Concern about public health led the Hygienic Stores to suggest that early sex would cause men to become "partially bald, dim of sight".
Overy's absorbing account of dystopian punditry might be profitably read by the going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket contingent of our own time.
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