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The Fifties Paperback – May 10, 1994
All Books, All the Time
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"In retrospect," writes David Halberstam, "the pace of the fifties seemed slower, almost languid. Social ferment, however, was beginning just beneath this placid surface." He shows how the United States began to emerge from the long shadow of FDR's 12-year presidency, with the military-industrial complex and the Beat movement simultaneously growing strong. Television brought not only situation comedies but controversial congressional hearings into millions of living rooms. While Alfred Kinsey was studying people's sex lives, Gregory Pincus and other researchers began work on a pill that would forever alter the course of American reproductive practices. Halberstam takes on these social upheavals and more, charting a course that is as easy to navigate as it is wide-ranging.
From Library Journal
The Fifties were more than just a mid-point decade in a century; they were to be the crucible in which the rest of the 20th century was forged. Halberstam ( The Next Century , LJ 1/92) here touches every thread in the warp and woof of the national fabric. This is the true drama of history: President Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur, the Eisenhower years, Senator Joe McCarthy's red-baiting, the early U.S. involvement in Indochina, the H-bomb, the purging of atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Supreme Court ordering the integration of schools, troops in Little Rock to enforce it, the Montgomery bus boycott, the rise of Martin Luther King, Russia's sputnik launch, and Castro's revolutionary Cuba. Halberstam also explores major social and cultural changes--the advent of national television, fast-food restaurants, the flight to the suburbs, huge cars with fins, the phenomenon of Elvis Presley, the contraceptive pill, and much more. A superb book; recommended for all libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/93.
- Chet Hagan, Berks Cty. P.L. System, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
You see, the 50s is my second book of his, and the same general rule applies. David Halberstam is a fine storyteller, period. However, this is both a pat on the back and a critique. He tells great stories based on the people living the stories he tells. The shame is that his gift is limited. A reader of this book may know some of the big events that happened in the 50s and the people associated with those events, but they will not know what it was like to live those events.
I like Halberstam's books. They work, but.. But. He writes biographies. This may work if they were not expected to be histories. Individual men (and they are mostly men) are profiled and what they do are profiled. They make actions and they do things that have an effect in the culture. The shame is that they build walls around the world. I have no idea what it was like to be a person in the 50s based on the book. I know, on some level, what happened but I am not that person.
Buy the book, by all means. He does a good job of bringing you in. I am glad I read the book and learned all he brought forth for me to learn. I just wish there was less a focus on people and more of a cultural criticism of the people and the time covered in the book. My own facile view of the time is based on the television shows of the time. These are dealt with much too late in the book to really view the considerations I care about. I wanted to compare reality versus the television shows that granted the best view of reality I knew. Halberstam shows that the visual culture is far removed from reality, but I hoped to engage that much earlier. That necessary and important social criticism does not happen until chapter 34 (pg 508).
Overall, I would recommend this book, as I would the entire author's work, but I would recommend that you explore more works for context of the period and the
The Kindle version suffers one technical defect. The book has 30 pages (in print, I think) of endnotes. The endnotes are linked back to the text. But there is no indication in the text that an endnote is present.
All in all a good, if long, read.