The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America - Chapter 4 - Section I-IV Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 4 - Section I-IV Summary and Analysis

Boorstin begins chapter four by reiterating his earlier argument that Americans have unrealistic expectations about the degree to which the world can be shaped or formed. He suggests that democracy and the graphic revolution are mostly responsible for the advent of abridgment and the mass production of art. In the effort to make art and literature accessible to all, Boorstin claims that these forms of expression were "disembodied".

He begins section I by talking about the changes to printed material. In the 1840s, books began to be made very cheap due to a variety of factors. One factor was the advent of presses which allowed for more efficient production of books. Another factor was the "Great Revolution in Publishing" in which "weeklies'' began selling books as "supplements" and "extras" in order to receive lower postal rates. Although this practice was eventually cut short by the postal service and copyright laws, cheap books remained a fascination for Americans.

Boorstin asserts that the next important step had to do with improvements in the binding industry, mainly in the form of automated processes done by machines. He continues that these changes affected the same turn from traveler to tourist only within the literature and art worlds. Soon, images of masterpieces could be printed on almost any object, especially with the introduction of colored printing presses. In addition, changes to the technology of making "plaster" and "metallic" sculpture reproductions led to mass distribution, and Boorstin states, subsequent devaluation of the artwork.

In section II, Boorstin discusses the process of abridgement and its impact on the appreciation of fine literature. In particular he refers to the popularity of "digests" including "The Reader's Digest", founded by De Witt Wallace. The magazine provided a synopsis of other works, presumably to aid the consumer in having access to the highlights of the longer articles. Boorstin suggests that the digest was responsible for producing an "epic" amount of pseudo-events, including having writers write articles to be published in other magazines that could then be "digested" in the magazine.

In section III, Boorstin continues the theme of "literary decline" and discusses the beginning stages of computers. Due to the increasing availability of literature, scientists were now being forced to "abstract the abstracts".

Boorstin continues the abridgment theme in section IV with a discussion about how books have suffered from the graphic revolution. In particular he focuses on the arrival of paperback books and publisher tendencies to run reprints and stay with particular themes because they are safe instead of taking risks on new material. Boorstin states, "By 1960, as many as a third of the books on the lists of "reprint" houses were in fact originals, confessed or disguised, and this percentage was increasing."

This section contains 467 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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