Acclaimed national security columnist and noted cultural critic Fred Kaplan looks past the 1960s to the year that really changed America
While conventional accounts focus on the sixties as the era of pivotal change that swept the nation, Fred Kaplan argues that it was 1959 that ushered in the wave of tremendous cultural, political, and scientific shifts that would play out in the decades that followed. Pop culture exploded in upheaval with the rise of artists like Jasper Johns, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, and Miles Davis. Court rulings unshackled previously banned books. Political power broadened with the onset of Civil Rights laws and protests. The sexual and feminist revolutions took their first steps with the birth control pill. America entered the war in Vietnam, and a new style in superpower diplomacy took hold. The invention of the microchip and the Space Race put a new twist on the frontier myth.
Vividly chronicles 1959 as a vital, overlooked year that set the world as we know it in motion, spearheading immense political, scientific, and cultural changeStrong critical acclaim: "Energetic and engaging" (Washington Post); "Immensely enjoyable . . . a first-rate book" (New Yorker); "Lively and filled with often funny anecdotes" (Publishers Weekly)Draws fascinating parallels between the country in 1959 and today
Drawing fascinating parallels between the country in 1959 and today, Kaplan offers a smart, cogent, and deeply researched take on a vital, overlooked period in American history.
Slate columnist Kaplan takes a contrarian view to the common wisdom that the '60s were the source of the cultural shift from pre-WWII traditions to the individualistic, question-authority world of today. In Kaplan's view, the watershed year in this transformation is 1959. He delves into that year's cultural and political scene, citing Miles Davis and his revolutionary album Kind of Blue; William Burroughs and his equally revolutionary novel, Naked Lunch; and the opening of Frank Lloyd Wright's radically designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City as examples of fundamental breaks with past conventions. Kaplan's case is cemented by three 1959 events that he convincingly argues were catalysts for paradigm changes in relationships between men and women (the pharmaceutical company Searle sought FDA approval for the birth control pill), in how citizens view their government (the first American soldiers were killed in Vietnam) and in communications and information transfer (the microchip was introduced to the world). Kaplan doesn't quite convince that 1959 was "the year when the shockwaves of the new ripped the seams of daily life," but his writing is lively and filled with often funny anecdotes as he examines some key elements in the transition from the mid to late 20th century. 16 b&w photos.