The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in Americaby Jules Witcover
Pinpoints 1968 as the cataclysmic year of turmoil & violence, presidential surprises & an escalating war that set a shaken nation on a course of disappointment, racial division, & distrust in its leaders that persists today. Month by month, he re-creates 1968 as he travels with, & reports on, the political fortunes of Lyndon Johnson, Eugene McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, George Romney, & Hubert Humphrey. He conveys the actual words of nat. figures & commentary by rock artists, media people, Vietnam vets & Haight-Ashbury hippies. He presents a unique perspective that captures the mood of a nation & the life of ordinary people.
Witcover (Crapshoot: Rolling the Dice on the Vice Presidency, 1992, etc.), a nationally syndicated political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, draws on reminiscences by Al Gore, John Ehrlichman, Allard Lowenstein, and George McGovern, among others, to chronicle the year in which "the dream" gave up the ghost. Which dream is unclear: Robert Kennedy's? Martin Luther King's? Richard Nixon's? Curtis LeMay's? Witcover's account is shot through with a lack of clarity, and the author seems mostly content to recall the days of tear gas and free love with tired (and often ungrammatical) truisms: "Through the medium of television that was a babysitter for many of them through their formative years, these young Americans saw the Vietnam War up close and they despised it"; "The names [of rock groups] alone, aside from the music often so discordant and confusing to older ears, drew a distinct generational line between the now generation and its parents." Witcover's narrative acquires depth only when he recalls his own experiences as a reporter, reliving the good old days of seemingly unlimited expense accounts and one-on-one interviews with the politicos of the day, most notably a carefully suntanned Nixon. Had Witcover written his book as a reporter's memoir of events he himself covered, it would surely have been to better result than this exercise in pop history, which closes with silly speculations on, for instance, what might have happened had Robert Kennedy lived to run against Nixon.
As an overview of 1968, several books, notably Stephen Spender's The Year of the Young Rebels and Todd Gitlin's The Sixties, cover the same ground, and much better.
- DIANE Publishing Company
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