Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of Nixonland: a dazzling portrait of America on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s.
In January of 1973 Richard Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam War and prepared for a triumphant second term — until televised Watergate hearings revealed his White House as little better than a mafia den. The next president declared upon Nixon's resignation "our long national nightmare is over" — but then congressional investigators exposed the CIA for assassinating foreign leaders. The collapse of the South Vietnamese government rendered moot the sacrifice of some 58,000 American lives. The economy was in tatters. And as Americans began thinking about their nation in a new way — as one more nation among nations, no more providential than any other — the pundits declared that from now on successful politicians would be the ones who honored this chastened new national mood.
Ronald Reagan never got the message. Which was why, when he announced his intention to challenge President Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination, those same pundits dismissed him — until, amazingly, it started to look like he just might win. He was inventing the new conservative political culture we know now, in which a vision of patriotism rooted in a sense of American limits was derailed in America's Bicentennial year by the rise of the smiling politician from Hollywood. Against a backdrop of melodramas from the Arab oil embargo to Patty Hearst to the near-bankruptcy of America's greatest city, The Invisible Bridge asks the question: what does it mean to believe in America? To wave a flag — or to reject the glibness of the flag wavers?
"Perlstein (Nixonland) snuffs out any nostalgic glow in this massive and wide-ranging portrait of 1973 to 1976, from Watergate to Ronald Reagan's challenge to Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination. Full of the tragic, the infuriating, and the darkly funny, Perlstein captures the frantic nature of the period: Hank Aaron enduring racist slurs and death threats as he broke Babe Ruth's home run record; the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; the fall of Saigon; and Chevy Chase mocking the hapless Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live. This was an America that seemed dominated by 'suspicious circles' the skeptics and cynics that led much of America's cultural and political discourse in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate. But Perlstein pulls together the threads that hinted at a conservatism in flux and ready for revolution, from violent battles over busing in Boston to anti-Equal Rights Amendment activism, but most of all, Ronald Reagan: his unwavering optimism in America, his carefully constructed image, and his growing appeal to mainstream America. As Perlstein notes in this outstanding work, 'America had not yet become Reagan's America,' but these were pivotal years that laid the groundwork for Reagan's presidential triumph in 1980. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"This is an ambitious, wide-ranging, and superbly written account filled with wonderful insights into key players...Perlstein views the rise of Reagan, with his celebration of America's 'special destiny' and moral superiority, as a rejection of a more honest and practical view of our role in the world after the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate. This is a masterful interpretation of years critical to the formation of our current political culture." Booklist (starred review)
"Perlstein is my favorite kind of historian, one who takes not just the long but also the wide view, looking for lines of influence, unexpected connections and threads."
David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times
"It says much about Perlstein's gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny...a book that is both enjoyable as kaleidoscopic popular history of the old Mark Sullivan-Frederick Lewis Allen school and telling about our own historical moment...Perlstein has taken his story only through the summer of our Bicentennial year. But much of what has happened in the nearly four decades since, and perhaps much that is yet to come, can be found in the pages of his epic work."
Frank Rich, New York Times Book Review
"Perlstein's portrait of Reagan's youth and family life is wonderful, one of the best I've read."
Ross Douthat, The New York Times
About the Author
Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, a New York Times bestseller picked as one of the best nonfiction books of the year by over a dozen publications; Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which won the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history and appeared on the best books of the year lists of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. His essays and book reviews have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Village Voice, and Slate, among others. He has received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for independent scholars. He lives in Chicago.