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1959: The Year Everything Changed
     

1959: The Year Everything Changed

3.6 5
by Fred M. Kaplan
 

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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

Overview

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 change
  • Strong 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* "Immensely enjoyable reading... a first-rate book… You'd be amazed how much stuff was going on in the unpromising year 1959, and how it all comes under the heading of breaking the chains of the old and embracing the new... [Kaplan]'s a sort of wonky hipster, a type that subsumes and coalesces almost all of the characters — physicists, poets, jazz musicians, astronomers — who set America on fire at the end of the Eisenhower decade, and who people 1959 , Kaplan's new book, which puts all of his passions between hard covers." (The New Yorker )

"Kaplan's premise is certainly a good one. He's arguing that the real fulcrum of the 20th century and beyond is not — as many argue — the 1960s, but the unsung '50s. Those who love the AMC series "Mad Men," set just after the epochal year, will find much to love in Kaplan's book." ( Los Angeles Times , July 19, 2009)

“Kaplan makes an intriguing case that 1959 was an authentic annus mirabellis.” ( Wall Street Journal , June 15, 2009)

"Where he really shines is in his ability to capture longer-term trends in the snapshot of the year.... In Kaplan's careful interpretation of the year, 1959—even aside from its headline scientific and cultural milestones—was a simmering cauldron of innovation and change, with superficial conformity and false shallows hiding the depths beneath." ( DailyKos)

“This sprawling, holistic joy of a book explores, expands and provokes reassessment of an entire era—not just a year—in a way that is deeply satisfying and enlightening.” ( dailykos.com , June 7, 2009)

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. (July) ( Publishers Weekly , May 4, 2009)

Charles Kaiser
In the pantheon of pivotal years…1959 hasn't previously rated a mention. But Fred Kaplan's energetic and engaging new book makes a convincing case for its importance…Anyone old enough to remember the '50s will be astonished to discover how many revolutionary seeds were sewn in the final year of that decade. Others who read 1959 will get a compelling and concise lesson in American social, cultural and political history.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470387818
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
06/15/2009
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
344
Sales rank:
527,183
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"An engrossing story about not just where the ’60s came from but the birth of the future. Kaplan does a masterful job of weaving together the strands — in politics, society, culture, and science — that have brought us to the postmodern age."
–Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

"It turns out there’s only one degree of separation between Miles Davis, the brilliant jazz innovator, and Herman Kahn, the Strangelovian nuclear-war theorist—and his name is Fred Kaplan. No one else could throw this fabulous cocktail party of a popular history, teeming with defiant hipsters, visionary inventors, artistic rulebreakers, and troublemakers of all kinds."
–Hendrik Hertzberg, Senior Editor, the New Yorker

"1959 is a riveting account of the year our modern age began. Everything did change, and you’ll be amazed by how much was going on, and how much it has affected the way you live your life now."
–Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row, Dreamland, and Paradise Alley

"Take a ride on the New Frontier with Fred Kaplan, your insightful (and hip) guide to the space race, thermonuclear war, the civil rights movement, the ‘sick comics,’ the Beats, and the beginnings of the Vietnam War, all to a soundtrack by Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, Miles, and Motown."
Donald Fagen, cofounder, Steely Dan

Meet the Author

Fred Kaplan is a columnist for Slate and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, New York magazine, and other publications. A former reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner for the Boston Globe, he is also the author of Daydream Believers and coauthor of The Wizards of Armageddon. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Brooke Gladstone.

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1959: The Year Everything Changed 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
bryant50 More than 1 year ago
If you are a "baby boomer" you will be re-introduced to what you forgot and to what you didn't know. You will remember the events depicted but not their impact. And we are still feeling the effects today. After reading the book you will want to dig deeper into some of the events.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JoAnnRich More than 1 year ago
Kaplan competently presents dynamic events, breakthroughs & inventions that proved to be pivotal points in our history. If you are interested in learning more about this red-letter year, I recommend this book. I particularly liked reading about Norman Mailer who strikes me as being both a lost soul & a brilliant observer.
Mario Russo More than 1 year ago
this book looks amazing cant wait to read