From Publishers Weekly
According to CCNY assistant history professor Killen, 1973 was "a cultural watershed, a moment of major realignments and shifts in American politics, culture, and society," and he examines these transformations in a series of essays. Andy Warhol's Interview magazine chronicled America's obsession with celebrity culture, from its homage to screen icons like Marilyn Monroe to its sympathetic portrayal of gender-bending trash-rock band the New York Dolls. The year 1973 also saw the rise of Ted Patrick, who claimed to have deprogrammed over 100 young people who had fallen into the clutches of religious cults, and the transformation of Vietnam War POWs into heroes as a Watergate-embroiled Nixon sought to bask in their reflected glory. The best pieces focus on PBS's trailblazing reality TV show An American Family, and the media's progressive invasion of American lives. Disasters and hijackings made air travel a flash point for extreme fear. Although his prose is frequently opaque and stilted, and his selection of 1973 seems arbitrary (why not 1974, the year of Patty Hearst's kidnapping and Nixon's resignation?), the perceptive Killen sheds welcome light on our collective experience. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* According to historian Killen, not only are the 1970s the least understood of the postwar decades, 1973 stands as an under-recognized "cultural watershed." Taking a cue from Mark Kurlansky's 1968 (2004), Killen presents a cogently argued, finely detailed, and thoroughly involving portrait of the year that delivered Roe v. Wade, Watergate, the winding down of the Vietnam War, the Arab oil embargo, the completion of the World Trade Center, repeated hijackings, and an outbreak of cults. To gauge the state of the American psyche, he deftly interprets Erica Jong's Fear of Flying and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, and the hit movies The Exorcist, American Graffiti, and Deep Throat. He also draws inspired parallels between Nixon's secret White House recordings; the first reality television series, An American Family; and Andy Warhol's enshrining of celebrity mania. Killen ponders the year's mix of cynicism and decadence, and society's preference for artifice over authenticity. He also chronicles the launching of big-bucks televangelism, the collapse of inner cities as the government pulled funding from domestic programs to support an unconscionable war, and criminality at the highest levels of government, drawing direct parallels between the seventies and our current decade. Donna Seaman
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