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Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 2, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Like the 1960s, the 1970s were more of a concept than a specific 10-year period. If the ’60s were defined by the sexual revolution and civil-rights activism, the ’70s’ central theme, Wheen suggests, was paranoia. World leaders such as U.S. president Nixon and British prime ministers Heath and Wilson were well known for delusional and sometimes irrational behavior; writers such as Philip K. Dick and Norman Mailer published works that displayed a troubling paranoia (OK, Mailer was right, and the FBI really was spying on him, but nobody knew that for certain until 30-odd years later). American cinemas were full of movies with themes of paranoia: The Conversation, The Parallax View, even Jaws. In the movies, the paranoia is justified because the fears are legitimate: there really is a government conspiracy, and the politicos of Amity really are willing to sacrifice people’s lives to keep the beaches open. Oh, and let’s not forget Watergate, Jonestown, and the cold war. The 1970s provide a rich panorama of paranoia, and Wheen explores it gleefully, writing about its “pungent mélange of apocalyptic dread and conspiratorial fever” and pointing out how, no matter how surreal the decade seems in retrospect, there are startling moments of familiarity and déja vu (when you think about it, our world today is not so different). A hugely entertaining book that makes you laugh, think, and look over your shoulder—sometimes all at the same time. --David Pitt

Review

Kirkus
“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.”

Publishers Weekly
“[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
“Wheen slathers his prose with cleverness so cheerily that you could almost forget that this was the decade of Nixon’s air war and the Khmer Rouge.”

The Los Angeles Times
“[Strange Days Indeed] frames the 1970s as an era of institutional collapse, unstable officials, general irrationalism (widespread interest in UFOs, psychic phenomena, mad cults) and terror: the Irish Republican Army's bombing campaign in Britain, the Black September massacre at the Munich Olympics, the Zippy the Pinhead antics of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the Symbionese Liberation Army.”
 
CHOICE Magazine, January 2011
“A must read…highly recommended.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586488457
  • ASIN: B004I1JQNY
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,451,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nicola Gardiner VINE VOICE on May 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Strange Days Indeed won't give you the full view of the 70's and its implications for the future, but in cherry picking some of the weirdest examples of a transitional time, it helps to shed light on some of the weirder events happening in a decade at the tail end of the cold war, a cultural revolution, and before the dawn of the personal computer.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Strange Days Indeed" is a history of the 1970's in the unmistakably satiric style of the venerable British magazine "Private Eye" (the author is an editor there.) It attempts to catch between two covers the weird vibe of that time. This book is exceptionally readable and amusing. Wheen is admirably even-handed with the left and right in flashing his skewer. The chapters on the West (Nixon, Great Britain, Philip K. Dick) are fascinating and even manage to dredge up some new insight into these familiar subjects. It's the chapters on real evil (Mao, Idi Amin, terrorism, espionage, Soviet tyranny) that give me a little pause. Here the humor gets blacker, as real blood is spilled. Worth reading for the reminder that, for the cases of the innocent people who suffered from political evil during this dark crazy time, they had real enemies.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This was a bit of a misnomer, unless you're familiar with Anglo-American history of the 70s. There was a lot going on in the world, and a lot of interesting and unusual people. While this book does touch on many of the things we associate with the 70s, trends, obscure dictators, the Cold War, Watergate, etc, it does literally "touch" on the wider picture. It is very much about Great Britain in the 1970s and the incredible turmoil the country was going through including the shortened work week, strikes galore, terror attacks and more.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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. It is especially good on the British and Western European scene but also includes portions on the U.S and other countries. It documents a grim decade of Economic Stagnation, Political Disillusionment, Gas Shortages, Rising unrest,terrorism, politicians from the merely sinister to homicidially depraved, and flakey ideas and cults. Mostly it is about the paranoia and the collapse of the post-war order how this cleared the way for the neoliberal order that followed. It also covers a decade with many of the same problems (if in altered form) we face today. I would recommend this look at this book and that decade we'd rather forget but shouldn't.
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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 parts of the world. This is by no means a comprehensive study, as it focuses on only a limited number of countries and situations. But where Wheen draws his focus, he does so very well, with exceptionally detailed and entertaining narratives. Much of the book is devoted to the near-collapse of political order in the UK, which Wheen shows to have been far worse -- and far more bizarre -- than most non-Brits are probably aware. My only quibble is with the final essays which wander off into rather ordinary discussions of 70s cinema and popular culture, topics that have been far better analyzed by others. But the political tales that comprise the main part of the book are a very engaging read indeed.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you lived through the 70's (or missed out, and get to enjoy them only vicariously), then much of Francis Wheen's "Strange Days Indeed" will be familiar to you. In fact, large portions of the book have been explored in recent feature-length movies (Nixon's personal wretchedness in "Frost/Nixon" and Idi Amin's grotesqueness in "The Last King of Scotland").

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.
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