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1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America Hardcover – April 4, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596910593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596910591
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Hicks on December 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a worthwhile immersion back into the many strains and tendencies that ran through American life and culture in the 60's and early 70's; in doing that it offers hints into the contemporary political scene. It connects many events in the political, economic, cultural life of that time. It seems to be a good entry into recent American history. The writing style is a little disorienting - in that many ideas and events are shown as being linked together but in a loose way (it felt like reading a Marshall McLuhan book in that no too sharp conclusions are drawn, but there are many half-ghosted ideas introduced that one can choose to explore in other ways and with other methods ) but it is a good starting point for one's own exploration of the ideas and events of that time.
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Format: Hardcover
1973 was a seminal year in US history, and Andreas Killen (City College of New York history professor), correctly identifies it as such in his book. Some of the more interesting sections of his book deal with the end of the war in Vietnam and the return of the POWs, Watergate, and the legitimate questions about Nixon's psychological health. He includes a lot of seemingly adulatory material on Andy Warhol and the transvestite punk-rock culture. In a boring and overlong chapter, Killen spends a great deal of time ruminating about how important the Loud family was in their TV show, The American Family. Killen's writing style is strained throughout the book, and his sentence structure is overly complex and sometimes disjointed.

I felt Prof. Killen should have heavily edited the sections on The American Family and the drug hazed Warholites. In wallowing about the forgotten movies of the midseventies and breathlessly praising the Hollywood directors of that year, he overstates the importance of these entertainers and seems to think they were cataclysmic contributors to US history. This sort of attitude is embraced today by the People magazine culture, uninterested in reading anything more than a caption under a celebrity's photograph. Instead of giggling about the New York Dolls, where's a mention of Led Zeppelin or Dark Side of the Moon (which came out that year)?

In getting caught up in how wonderful American Graffiti and Francis Ford Coppola are, Killen grossly under-represents or fails to mention Roe v.
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Format: Paperback
Philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that history trembles along "fault lines," identifiable by sudden shifts like the Industrial Revolution or the Renaissance. Manhattan historian Andreas Killen finds one such line in 1973, the year America finally abandoned its romance with 1960s idealism and began a march toward grim practicality. Though the Vietnam War, which dominated the 1960s, finally ended that year, the promised age of national bodhidharma never materialized.

1973 saw many beginnings and ends. Operation Homecoming saw the mass repatriation of POWs, including two-time Presidential candidate John McCain, concluding the Vietnam conflict. Public broadcasting also launched An American Family, the first reality TV show, starring TV's first openly gay protagonist. The Symbionese Liberation Army, which achieved infamy the next year, began in 1973. But none of these social forces happened alone; Killen's 1973 reflects terrifying top-down entropy.

Though Killen addresses several topics--arts, sex, economics, Vietnam--Richard Nixon casts a long shadow. An intensely popular President, recently re-elected by an overwhelming majority, Nixon nevertheless spent 1973 undergoing a high-profile crack-up. He was reputedly addicted to amphetamines and sleeping pills, and once vanished from public view for eleven days, unmatched in the modern Presidency. Though Watergate began in 1972 and ended in 1974, Nixon's biggest dramas happened in 1973.

For all his prominence, though, Nixon-hating has a certain dead horse ineluctability. Killen sees in Nixon a manifestation of postwar America's deep death-wish.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an enjoyable book that includes many important details and commentary concerning the 1960's and 1970's. However, I wish that it had spent less time on the Andy Warhol scene and more time on substantial issues such as the U.S. economy, and sociological changes in society. Nonetheless, I am definitely glad that I read this book, and I recommend it to others who are interested in the era of of the 1960's and 1970's. Conclusion: This book is rated at 4.5 stars.
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