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Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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“The author ably navigates the shattered landscape of the decade, which, for all its awfulness, has inspired a fair share of nostalgia…Literate, authentic to period detail and often entertaining.”
Booklist, STARRED review
“A hugely entertaining book that makes you laugh, think, and look over your shoulder—sometimes all at the same time.”
“[W]riting like Hunter S. Thompson might have had he been English and sober, Wheen offers a vivid, entertaining guide to an era of fear and loathing.”
The New Republic
The Los Angeles Times
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Top Customer Reviews
Were the '70's unique in their paranoia...I don't know, but it seems right to me that paranoia would occur in a decade where a a general shedding of self confidence was occurring in the "developed" world. Madness in politics and political leaders is, unfortunately, not a hallmark of this decade, the media spotlight on it was new, the immediacy of the far corners of the world and the entrance into the private conversations, the bedrooms of the worlds of political leaders was entirely new. And Francis Wheen has chosen examples of this madness to intrigue and edify those of us who have a taste for this sort of thing.
It's a fun book, perhaps not meant to be taken overly seriously, which will provide some insights into the less known British events that defined the decade in that corner of Europe.
Of course, there was the American dram of President Nixon and Watergate, Jimmy Carter and the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Vietnam, etc, and these too are covered in good detail, but there was the rest of the world and I felt as though Mr Ween tended to ignore these except for vague references or glossing over them. It's not as though he had too much information, the book is only 352 pages long.
That said, it's an alright read to pass the time. It's not among the best I've read, and I consider myself fortunate to be sufficiently versed in Anglo-American history that I "got" it. For the novice, I'm not so sure.
Take these two iconic leaders, add shorter discussions of the travails of Edmund Heath, Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman Mao, a UK obscenity trial, the domestic excesses of the FBI and the CIA. Sprinkle in the travails of Phillip K. Dick and Norman Mailer. Stir everything up, bind them with a loose glue of popular culture (he turns frequently to "The Conversation and "Taxi Driver" and the resulting paranoid belief that they were all somehow connected, and you have the recipe for this manifesto.
While each vignette is well written and entertaining enough, Wheen is wide of the mark in establishing a unifying theme beyond that of their shared traits of extreme behaviors. Wheen himself plays freely with the 70's even as a space in time, claiming they can't be defined by the calendar alone. They may have begun and ended before --or after, depending on your definition-- the part of the calendar that claims them.
If you're familiar with these vignettes, you'll enjoy reacquainting yourself with over the top products of multiple political and social forces from those days. If they are new to you, then you'll be amazed at the resilience of western civilization in bouncing back. But don't expect to walk away convinced that everybody drank the same elixir of paranoia and that alone accounts for the slices of 70's life he presents.
The author's thesis is that this was a decade of paranoia -- and he picks and chooses evidence to fit his thesis. So we get a lot about Watergate (although nothing new -- the author relies entirely on secondary sources) but nothing much about the Ford or Carter presidencies that followed. One would expect a discussion of the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis that brought down the Carter administration -- but nada.
There are about four pages devoted to China -- strange in comparison to the extensive discussion of Harold Wilson's private secretary. There's nothing about the stagnation of the Soviet Union, which paved the way for the great decline of the 1980s, Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War.
A few pages are devoted to the Portuguese withdrawal from Africa and the Angolan civil war -- but nothing about the death of Franco (Nov 20, 1975) which paved the way for democracy on the Iberian peninsula.
We get no analysis of the Cambodian genocide, almost nothing about important developments in the Middle East including the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanese civil war and Sadat's visit to Jerusalem which was followed by the Camp David accords.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating look at Britain in the 70s, with some comments on the rest of the world. Probably needs a revision in light of the Jimmy Saville revelations, but still a valuable... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Marty Busse
From the decade that brought us the platform shoe, Space Invaders and disco comes STRANGE DAYS INDEED; Francis Wheen's conspiracy primer (minus the UFOs and MK-ULTRA zombies)... Read morePublished on December 14, 2011 by Amazon fan
Before all those modern conveniences of everyday life like cell phones and on line music, there was a time when people actually had to make calls at a pay phone and receive news... Read morePublished on November 25, 2011 by Kevin M Quigg
This book written by an englishman. It has an international scope but with British focus on the 1970s and the paranoia surrounding that decade and is a good read. Read morePublished on November 11, 2011 by Peter D. McLoughlin
I remember some of the events in this book since I was growing up in the 1970s. However, growing up in them didn't make them strange days, just days. Read morePublished on May 30, 2011 by brian d foy
A good, very readable collection of eye-opening essays, mainly about the staggering decay and dysfunction of politics throughout this benighted decade as it unfolded across various... Read morePublished on April 21, 2011 by M. Jeffery
It seems quaint that Wheen should pick paranoia as a defining characteristic for the 70's and proceeds with relating a mishmash of historical events that involve everything from... Read morePublished on September 29, 2010 by MyBeesWax
I lived through the 1970's! I remember my great-grandmother glued to the TV set during the Watergate hearings. I remember the energy crisis. I remember the Iran hostage crisis. Read morePublished on September 15, 2010 by David Zampino
The British author and editor Francis Wheen argues that the 1970s were characterized by the pervasive paranoia that ran riot from the Nixonian White House, through the far left... Read morePublished on August 29, 2010 by Nowhere Man