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Jon Margolis
Booknotes, Sunday, June 27, 1999
Jon Margolis discusses The Last Innocent Year: America In 1964--the Beginning Of The 'sixties'.

The year 1964 marked a watershed in American history: John Kennedy was dead, and in the aftermath of his assassination, the country was trying to figure out what to do with itself. The Warren Commission was busily sifting evidence, Jackie Kennedy was fast on her way to becoming an icon of dignified widowhood, and Lyndon Johnson was tearing down Camelot to build the Great Society. Young men started burning draft cards, rioting blacks burned whole neighborhoods, women began to wonder if the male sex was their oppressor, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (which escalated the war in Vietnam), and three civil rights workers were killed in Mississippi. In The Last Innocent Year, Jon Margolis, a former political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, captures all the drama and emotion of this historic year, re-creating it from the perspective of the statesmen, celebrities, and ordinary people who made its events come alive. Nineteen sixty-four was the first year since the end of World War II in which America began to lose sight of its habitual optimism, giving way to the era known as the Sixties. This was a time when people were beginning to shake things up, as many diverse, disagreeing factions rose up against the elites that had been governing them. It was also a year in which students spoke out against their elders, and the anger of middle-class working people began to foment. By the end of the year, the commonwealth itself—and the very idea that there was or ought to be a commonwealth—was under attack and was forever changed. Beginning the day after the Kennedy assassination and following through to President Johnson's defeat of Barry Goldwater in November, Margolis weaves an unforgettable narrative involving some of the most dynamic figures of this century—from Robert Kennedy to Timothy Leary, from J. Edgar Hoover to Martin Luther King Jr., from George Wallace to Fannie Lou Hamer. This was also the year the Beatles took America by storm, Elizabeth Taylor dumped Eddie Fisher for Richard Burton, and Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to become "The Greatest." Dr. Strangelove was playing in all the movie theaters, and The Beverly Hillbillies was all the rage on television. The Last Innocent Years provides a snapshot of who we were then, and where we were going. With the authoritative voice of a veteran journalist, Margolis not only describes the events of that momentous year but places them in a context that is relevant today. He has drawn an unforgettable portrait of a year that changed America forever. —from the publisher's website (timspalding)… (more)
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