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Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man Paperback – November 14, 2002
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Original review above was July 1998; Below added Jan 2003:
Hurrah! It's back in print! Get your copy before it disappears again!
I should have mentioned that, in addition to the fun of watching Wills dismantle the superstructure of liberalism, the book provides great pleasure through its style. Wills writes non-fiction better than most poets write sonnets.
Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson are flamboyant, easy reads. Reading Garry Wills is more like reading epic poetry. You have to work at it, but it's worth it.
They had some great journalists in those days. Too bad we didn't have their like during the Bush years.
A wide ranging study of Richard Nixon -- the man, the career, and the times that shaped both the man and the career. It is uncanny in the way it a foreshadows Nixon's self-destructive impulses: his paranoia, his introversion, his secrecy, his distrust, his self-doubts, his insecurities which combined to lead him to Watergate's half-truths, deceits, prevarications, denials, lies, enemies list, and so on.
The Nixon that emerges from these pages is hardworking, and always over-prepared for everything, a man who scripted and edited his every word and gesture. If he seemed wooden and without spontaneity it is because he was his own puppet master, jerking the wires to jaw and arm. Supposing himself to lack the assets of others (the personal charm of Charles Percy, the grace of William Scranton, the wit of Adlai Stevenson, the courage of John Lindsay, the gravitas of Robert Taft, the respect accorded Dwight Eisenhower, the dignity of George Romney, the mental agility of Harold Stassen, the experience of Henry Cabot Lodge, the wealth of Nelson Rockefeller, the good looks of John Kennedy) Nixon compensated for all these these gifts bestowed on others by working longer and harder than anyone else with that famous "iron butt." Everything he ever did in public was practiced, rehearsed, revised, practiced, rejected, redone, and so on until he reached the robotic result we all saw.
He would never give in to the human impulse to look at his watch while listening to a voter rant as George Bush (once did and was excoriated for so doing).Read more ›
This is not about how power corrupts, it is a book about how much Wills hates Nixon.
It is a hatchet job. It is a bloodletting and a waste of paper, my time and it is much like kicking a dead horse.
If you are seeking a book about Nixon, a book to help you understand where Nixon failed, you need to examine his papers. Nixon, like all people, is and was a very complicated individual. I do not know if he was totally corrupt, I do not know if he is a failure, I know nothing about him other than what he did. WHY will never be understood because when you read a book about Nixon you are reading the author's prejudices not pertinent materials. And most books about Nixon are "gotcha" books and "I told you so" tomes.
I consider this book to be a waste of paper, time and money.
And I never voted for Nixon, I have no connection to him other than he was a "footnote" in my dissertation on the failed repatriation of POWs.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wills, one of our most brilliant thinkers on American history, culture, politics, religion, wrote this during Nixon's first term as President. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Richard E. Hayes
A landmark book on the psychology and political thought of Richard M. Nixon.Published 10 months ago by MOVIEKIDZ LLC
Clear insight into what was before his eyes, before all our eyes. Most impressive is Wills' ability to accurately describe the foibles, failures, and the occasional true strengths... Read morePublished 21 months ago by MK Gee
A complete grasp of the times and circumstances surrounding Nixon written by an outstanding journalist. Probably won't change your mind about Nixon.Published on October 31, 2013 by Anne Deleurme
Much of the prose reads like a journalist's field notes, sort of scattered, in medias res. The author's idiosyncracies guide his characterization of Nixon, e.g. Read morePublished on August 9, 2009 by Any Metaphysician