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If you don’t pay too much attention to pop culture, you may be forgiven for thinking that the story of the past fifty years in American entertainment goes something like this: Once upon a time, our arts were a verdant and unspoiled Eden. On TV, father knew best. On the radio, Gene Autry rested easy atop the Billboard charts with his sweet rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And when Americans read—they did, back then, in spades—they turned to soul-improving stuff, like the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch’s novelistic adaptation of the life of Moses, a runaway hit that was the third best-selling book of 1950. 

And then came the 1960s, and with them the wreckers of civilization. 

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