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Boom!: Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Todayby Tom Brokaw
Synopses & Reviews
In The Greatest Generation, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in Boom!, one of America's premier journalists gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America as he brings to life the tumultuous Sixties, a fault line in American history. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.
One minute it was Ike and the man in the grey flannel suit, and the next minute it was time to turn on, tune in, drop out. While Americans were walking on the moon, Americans were dying in Vietnam. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before.
Published as the fortieth anniversary of 1968 approaches, Boom! gives us what Brokaw sees as a virtual reunion of some members of the class of '68, offering wise and moving reflections and frank personal remembrances about people's lives during a time of high ideals and profound social, political, and individual change. What were the gains, what were the losses? Who were the winners, who were the losers? As they look back decades later, what do members of the Sixties generation think really mattered in that tumultuous time, and what will have meaning going forward?
Race, war, politics, feminism, popular culture, and music are all explored here, and we learn from a wide range of people about their lives. Tom Brokaw explores how members of this generation have gone on to bring activism and a Sixties mindset into individual entrepreneurship today. We hear stories of how this formative decade has led to a recalibrated perspective — on business, the environment, politics, family, our national existence.
Remarkable in its insights, profoundly moving, wonderfully written and reported, this revealing portrait of a generation and of an era, and of the impact of the 1960s on our lives today, lets us be present at this reunion ourselves, and join in these frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow.
"There's less heroism in Brokaw's profiles of the baby boom cohort than there was in his salute to The Greatest Generation, but there's still plenty of drama. Almost everyone the author interviews (famous boomers like Arlo Guthrie, Hillary Clinton and Karl Rove along with many unsung contemporaries) describes a personal journey through the upheavals of the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, women's liberation, the counterculture, the rise of the New Left or the birth of the New Right. Callow students became radicalized, restless housewives forged careers, musicians spiraled into addiction, disgusted erstwhile liberals trekked rightward, everyone — except Dick Cheney, Brokaw mentions — questioned authority. Unlike Brokaw's celebratory and elegiac previous book, this one is steeped in retrospective ambivalence; conservatives look back on the era with disdain, and even unreconstructed lefties feel misgivings about its excesses. As an NBC correspondent, Brokaw was a keen (if careful nonparticipant) observer of the '60s and contributes his own neutral but engaging gloss on developments, along with personal recollections of everyone from Bobby Kennedy to Hunter S. Thompson. He may not always know what to make of it all, but Brokaw's profiles do convey the decade's diverse experiences, its roiling energies and its centrality in the making of modern America. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Tom Brokaw's sprawling new book about the 1960s has a striking cover, and it includes interviews with 50 people, many of them recognizable names from the era, like Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Andrew Young and Gloria Steinem. Combining oral history with the author's own memories, this 662-page tome touches on nearly all the major events of that extraordinary time. Unfortunately, it tells us nothing new... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) about any of them. The same abilities that made Brokaw a great anchorman don't serve him well in this venture. On TV he was pleasant and affable. A facile and friendly interviewer, he never made a premature judgment about anything he was reporting on. Together with a handsome face and a manly voice, those qualities were enough to keep him at the top of the TV totem pole for most of his career. In these pages he remains pleasant and affable. But the interviews yield more platitudes than insights. What is most infuriating, 40 years on, is the author's nearly absolute refusal to come to any conclusions. The main leitmotif is that it's too early for anyone to judge the impact of this remarkable period. Brokaw writes, 'The evidence is still coming in and the jury is still out — and forty years later we don't seem anywhere near being able to render a verdict,' and 'for the rest of my days, when my mind wonders back to the Sixties, I will probably think: Boom! what was that all about?' Nearly three hundred pages later, he is still quoting George Will saying the same thing. Interviews are loosely organized by subject (Jane Pauley, Linda Greenhouse and Dorothy Rabinowitz for 'I Am Woman,' or James Taylor, Paul Simon and Jann Wenner for 'Like A Rolling Stone') in an effort to produce what Brokaw calls a 'virtual reunion of a cross section of the Sixties crowd.' But instead of analysis, we get endless cliches and plenty of celebrity worship — sometimes in the same sentence. Brokaw recognizes a 'calm before a ferocious storm,' but he can't decide if these were 'the best or the worst of times.' Ronald Reagan was 'every inch a star,' and Warren Beatty was 'every inch, and without any apologies, unquestionably a star,' as well as 'tall, dark, and handsome.' The battle between Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy for the presidential nomination in 1968 was 'a saga of Shakespearean proportions,' while Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were 'the most unlikely dynamic duo in diplomatic history.' Considering that Brokaw lived through all the events he is writing about, and reported on many of them, it's surprising how many facts he gets wrong. In Brokaw's history, one of the decade's soaring moments — Lyndon Johnson's declaration, 'We Shall Overcome,' occurred when the president signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That happened in the White House on July 2, 1964. However, Johnson actually said the words that brought tears to Martin Luther King Jr.'s eyes in an address to a joint session of Congress, eight months later, when he proposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. More bizarrely, Brokaw writes that in their only televised debate in 1968, Kennedy challenged McCarthy's 'suggestion to move thousands of residents out of Watts and into Orange County.' The trouble is, McCarthy never said that. The Democratic senator from Minnesota merely suggested that something should be done to make it easier for residents to move out of the ghetto. It was Kennedy who pandered to white fears by pretending that McCarthy had specified the number who should be moved and where they should be relocated: 'You say you are going to take ten thousand black people and move them into Orange County.' McCarthy partisans were infuriated by that invention; they were even angrier after McCarthy waited more than 12 hours to correct the record. One theme Brokaw comes back to repeatedly is the idea that the street fights of 1968 were more 'counterrevolutionary' than 'revolutionary' because their main effect was to cause a powerful and long-lasting right-wing reaction. Certainly, there was a backlash. But there are two problems with this analysis. First, it ignores the fact that the crucial events that gave the South to the Republican Party for a generation were the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Second, though he mentions the gains of blacks and women in passing, he never explains how the explosions of the 1960s created fundamental and dramatic social change. There is nothing here about the Stonewall Riot that began the gay liberation movement in 1969 or any of the heroes of the gay revolution, like Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols. This book purports to be about some of the most dramatic and traumatic events of the last 50 years — including the triumphant protests of the civil rights movement and the ultimately successful anti-war movement. But the way Brokaw tells this story deprives it of all of its drama. For my generation, the one after Brokaw's, there was a brief, astonishing moment, when our determination to change the world was fueled by the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Supremes and, yes, by drugs like marijuana — and the outcome was a fundamental and permanent change in the way black people and gay people and women have been treated ever since. The much-derided Vietnam syndrome prevented America from engaging in similar misadventures for 20 years afterward. These are not insignificant achievements. But this oddly bloodless account robs the 1960s of both their triumphs and their tragedies. Charles Kaiser is the author of '1968 in America' and 'The Gay Metropolis.' He is completing 'The Cost of Courage,' about the French Resistance, and he writes press criticism in a blog for www.radaronline.com called Full Court Press." Reviewed by Charles Kaiser, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"This book would be an odd and sprawling compendium were it not for the unifying effect of Mr. Brokaw's companionable style." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"The book is not only right in its atmospherics but downright intellectually stimulating." Hartford Courant
With the bestseller "The Greatest Generation," Brokaw defined for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, the veteran newsman takes readers into the tumultuous decade of the 1960s--a decade of turbulence and change. Illustrated.
About the Author
Tom Brokaw is the author of four bestsellers: The Greatest Generation, The Greatest Generation Speaks, An Album of Memories, and A Long Way from Home. From 1976 to 1981 he anchored "Today" on NBC. He was the sole anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw" from 1983 to 2004.
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