Synopses & Reviews
In this monumental new book, award-winning author Mark Kurlansky has written his most ambitious work to date: a singular and ultimately definitive look at a pivotal moment in history.
With 1968, Mark Kurlansky brings to teeming life the cultural and political history of that world-changing year of social upheaval. People think of it as the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet it was also the year of the Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy assassinations; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Prague Spring; the antiwar movement and the Tet Offensive; Black Power; the generation gap, avant-garde theater, the birth of the women’s movement, and the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. From New York, Miami, Berkeley, and Chicago to Paris, Prague, Rome, Berlin, Warsaw, Tokyo, and Mexico City, spontaneous uprisings occurred simultaneously around the globe.
Everything was disrupted. In the Middle East, Yasir Arafat’s guerilla organization rose to prominence...both the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Biennale were forced to shut down by protesters...the Kentucky Derby winner was stripped of the crown for drug use...the Olympics were a disaster, with the Mexican government having massacred hundreds of students protesting police brutality there...and the Miss America pageant was stormed by feminists carrying banners that introduced to the television-watching public the phrase “women’s liberation.”
Kurlansky shows how the coming of live television made 1968 the first global year. It was the year that an amazed world watched the first live telecast from outer space, and that TV news expanded to half an hour. For the first time, Americans watched that day’s battle–the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive–on the evening news. Television also shocked the world with seventeen minutes of police clubbing demonstrators at the Chicago convention, live film of unarmed students facing Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia, and a war of starvation in Biafra. The impact was huge, not only on the antiwar movement, but also on the medium itself. The fact that one now needed television to make things happen was a cultural revelation with enormous consequences.
In many ways, this momentous year led us to where we are today. Whether through youth and music, politics and war, economics and the media, Mark Kurlansky shows how, in 1968, twelve volatile months transformed who we are as a people. But above all, he gives a new understanding to the underlying causes of the unique historical phenomenon that was the year 1968. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written–full of telling anecdotes, penetrating analysis, and the author’s trademark incisive wit–1968 is the most important book yet of Kurlansky’s noteworthy career.
"A masterful chronicle....Doing what he does best, Kurlansky brings a descriptive glow to his subject....Says so much so well about a year that still steals your breath away, even with so many of its hopes dashed." Kirkus Reviews
"[W]hat can be gained from yet another Boomer report on the 1960s? Surprisingly, quite a bit....This is very fine and surprisingly timely..." Keir Graff, Booklist
"To read this book is to be transported to a very specific past at once more naive and more mature than today....1968 is a thorough and loving (perhaps a bit too loving of the boomer generation) tapestry or time capsule." Publishers Weekly
"Mark Kurlansky cuts a wide swath in his very broad but engaging survey of one extraordinarily tumultuous year....Kurlansky, the author of Cod and Salt
, could have indeed indulged in a lot more 'what a cool time it was' back-patting, but his tone throughout remains mercifully unhip and balanced. 1968
makes the argument, and persuasively so, that this was the year that got us, for better or worse, where we are today." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
To some, 1968 was the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet it was also the year of the Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy assassinations; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Prague Spring; the antiwar movement and the Tet Offensive; Black Power; the generation gap; avant-garde theater; the upsurge of the womens movement; and the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.
In this monumental book, Mark Kurlansky brings to teeming life the cultural and political history of that pivotal year, when televisions influence on global events first became apparent, and spontaneous uprisings occurred simultaneously around the world. Encompassing the diverse realms of youth and music, politics and war, economics and the media, 1968 shows how twelve volatile months transformed who we were as a people-and led us to where we are today.
About the Author
Mark Kurlansky is the James A. Beard Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; The Basque History of the World; A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry; A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny; a collection of stories, The White Man in the Tree; and a children’s book, The Cod’s Tale; as well as the editor of Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History. He lives in New York City.
Reading Group Guide
1. How did the explosive worldwide social movements of 1968 make that year unique?
2. What was the international impact of the civil rights movement on the events of 1968?
3. What progress or setbacks have there been in the status of women since that time?
4. How did television influence that years events?
5. How does the mass media of today differ from 1968s?
6. What was the global significance of the Prague Spring?
7. What events of 1968 would not occur today?
8. How is it that such a tragic year arouses nostalgia in so many people?
9. Was the world a better place before 1968, or do you feel there have been changes for the better since that year?
10. What lessons might we learn from the events of 1968?