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Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image Hardcover – October 6, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this aptly named study, Greenberg, a Bancroft Prize winner who also collaborated with Bob Woodward on The Agenda, sedulously avoids value judgments about the effectiveness of Richard Nixon's policies, offering instead a kaleidoscopic view of the man's many images: as Tricky Dick, as conspirator, as victim, as statesman, among others. Borrowing Woodward's device of calibrating his subjects through the eyes of others, Greenberg presents the opinions of Nixon loyalists, Nixon haters, pundits from the left and right, mainstream historians, revisionist historians, psychobiographers, the Washington press corps and members of the foreign policy establishment. According to Greenberg, this retrospective shows Nixon to have been the first postmodern president, the first whose image was purposefully manipulated for political reasons and without regard to accomplishments. The author also argues that the key to understanding Nixon is not in "discarding the many images of him... but [in] gathering and assembling them into a strange, irregular, mosaic." But with an impressive number of viewpoints sampled, hundreds of sources quoted and even TV shows Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live plumbed for Nixon references, readers may find the citations overwhelming. Still, for sheer drama, Nixon's career remains worthy of review, from his red-baiting 1950 Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas, his involvement in the Alger Hiss perjury case and the infamous "Checkers" speech to the Khrushchev kitchen debate, his China policy and the political drama of the century, Watergate. Greenberg's thoroughly researched book, despite its faults, brightly illuminates the passionate public responses that swirled around one of the most controversial politicians of our times. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Nixon haters, Nixon apologists, and would-be Nixon explainers here receive in Greenberg what has long been needed: an impartial umpire. This is not a biography; instead, Greenberg analyzes what biographers, journalists, historians, and artists have to say about the deeds, dastardly and otherwise, of Richard Milhous Nixon. Greenberg unpacks this commentary the old-fashioned way, by arraigning a writer's assumptions and biases. He parallels this with smart analysis of Nixon's career-long efforts to shape his own image--to his critics the surest evidence of Tricky Dick's unprincipled phoniness, but to Greenberg a case study in a politician's spin-control. Working off the superheated rhetoric produced by Vietnam, radical protest, and Watergate, Greenberg's appraisals produce much discernment and subtle bemusement at Nixon's ever-malleable reputation. There will always be a New Nixon, it seems, whether it's Nixon the crypto-liberal (to historian Joan Hoff); Nixon the epitome of a corrupt, imperial system (to the New Left); or Nixon, "one of us" (to journalist Tom Wicker). An impressively balanced work. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393048969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393048964
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By MJD1 on September 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Nixon's Shadow sheds light on Nixon's life and legacy--and it opens up a fascinating world on the civic life of the United States. It's one of the best books I've read in a long, long time.
What I love about most this book is that it tells Nixon's story through the eyes of his critics and the lens of his detractors. In doing so, Greenberg opens up a whole new way, really, of thinking about our politics. The book marks a major contribution to the Nixon literature as well as a shrewd, detailed portrait of the rise of image-making in 20th century America.
By focusing on the forces that led to Nixon's rise and fall, Greenberg shows us how images in politics aren't simply products created by a candidate--they are, in fact, the result of complex forces in our culture and our politics. This book goes to the heart of our civic life. It is one of the most fascinating take our politics that I've ever had the pleasure to read--and one of the best-written non-fiction books to come down the pike in recent memory.
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Format: Hardcover
Was Richard Nixon the second coming of Hitler or the last great liberal president? Or, most likely, the greatest transformation artist since Lon Chaney? With all the spinning by Nixon and his foes, it may be impossible to ever definitively answer who our 37th president was. David Greenberg's compelling book tracks the many colors of this iconic chameleon. The first couple of chapters do a solid job recounting the Tricky Dicky days, kicked off by the warm (?), conniving (?), populist (?) Checkers speech-- Nixon's first great rebound. But it isn't until the Watergate and post-Watergate chapters that the book really takes off with fresh, provocative insights.
Greenberg escorts us down the twisted passageways of Nixon's psyche, recounting the many news, historical and entertainment sources that painted Nixon as an emotional cripple whose psychotic manipulations and paranoid rants wracked our nation's trust in government. Was that the real Nixon? The following section reviews the media sources, often prompted by the Nixon PR machine, that attempted to recast the by then ex-president as a great statesman who opened up China and held out an olive branch to the Soviets. Perhaps most suprising, and riveting, is the chapter that discusses the revisionist historians who paint Nixon's as the great liberal in conservative clothing-- the man who took the "Great Society" to new heights, shepherding legislation that integrated schools, bettered the lives of Native Americans, and expanded social programs for the poor.
Greenberg while refusing to swallow any of these images whole, uses his keen eye to find the credible core of each Nixonian persona. This is a memorable history that questions history itself, a book that asks-- is it possible to objectively capture any figure from history?
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Format: Hardcover
Mixing psychology, media studies, political science, punditry, and good old-fashioned History with a capital 'H,' Greenberg manages to illuminate an oft-analyzed icon from a host of new and different perspectives. Reading this book was a bit like being a guest at a scintillating dinner party among intellectuals from a range of fields, in which a single topic dominates the evening's discussion and debate, but never gets boring because of the diversity of the company. Here, what is most impressive is that Greenberg (whom the book jacket indicates was trained as a traditional academic historian) manages to pull it off single-handedly, and so well. The breadth of 'takes' on Nixon included in this book was a risky move -- it might well have come out confusing, disjointed, or watered-down -- but like a modern-day Fred Astaire or Nipsey Russell, Greenberg manages to smoothly tap-dance across genres (and generations of Nixon fans & foes) without missing a beat. Hats off to the author for taking this risk, and for carrying it off with such grace and skill. Highly recommended for history buffs, pop culture buffs, and those of us who simply enjoy a good read.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is catching fire as the latest, most innovative take on Tricky Dick that has come out in a while, as well as an insightful look at the forces behind today's politics of image-making. The book offers a succession of revealing portraits of Nixon, seen through the eyes of all kinds of different Americans. It is a great read - filled with stories and vivid anecdotes of the former President's rise through politics, starting from small town California, through to the White House and then post-resignation exile. You will not put this book down. Budding politicos, Nixon-lovers, Nixon-haters and non-fiction lovers in general should get hold of it.
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Format: Hardcover
It amazes me that anybody reading this book would believe that having one central idea could be considered a flaw. The brilliance of this book is its central theme. The coherence brought to this subject is staggering, given past and often failed attempts to capture the essence of Nixon not as a political person, but as a political hydra.
The legwork it must have taken to build such a coherent narrative out of that many disparate sources is truly a remarkable achievement. To make it accessible to the non-academic reader is nothing short of a miracle and reflects the writer's well-established credentials as a seasoned political writer and editor. If this is book one, I eagerly look forward to his future efforts.
I would also recommend this book to anybody who wants to challenge his or her pre-conceived notions about who Richard Nixon was and what his influence will be on the political landscape of America. For the Nixon neophyte, the book frames the Nixon legacy into a well-organized source on an individual's significant role in the revolution and evolution of American politics towards image control and ideological spinning.
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