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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America Paperback – April 14, 2009
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Amazon Best of the Month, May 2008: How did we go from Lyndon Johnson's landslide Democratic victory in 1964 to Richard Nixon's equally lopsided Republican reelection only eight years later? The years in between were among the most chaotic in American history, with an endless and unpopular war, riots, assassinations, social upheaval, Southern resistance, protests both peaceful and armed, and a "Silent Majority" that twice elected the central figure of the age, a brilliant politician who relished the battles of the day but ended them in disgrace. In Nixonland Rick Perlstein tells a more familiar story than the one he unearthed in his influential previous book, Before the Storm, which argued that the stunning success of modern conservatism was founded in Goldwater's massive 1964 defeat. But he makes it fresh and relentlessly compelling, with obsessive original research and a gleefully slashing style--equal parts Walter Winchell and Hunter S. Thompson--that's true to the times. Perlstein is well known as a writer on the left, but his historian's empathies are intense and unpredictable: he convincingly channels the resentment and rage on both sides of the battle lines and lets neither Nixon's cynicism nor the naivete of liberals like New York mayor John Lindsay off the hook. And while election-year readers will be reminded of how much tamer our times are, they'll also find that the echoes of the era, and its persistent national divisions, still ring loud and clear. --Tom Nissley
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Perlstein, winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, provides a compelling account of Richard Nixon as a masterful harvester of negative energy, turning the turmoil of the 1960s into a ladder to political notoriety. Perlstein's key narrative begins at about the time of the Watts riots, in the shadow of Lyndon Johnson's overwhelming 1964 victory at the polls against Goldwater, which left America's conservative movement broken. Through shrewdly selected anecdotes, Perlstein demonstrates the many ways Nixon used riots, anti–Vietnam War protests, the drug culture and other displays of unrest as an easy relief against which to frame his pitch for his narrow win of 1968 and landslide victory of 1972. Nixon spoke of solid, old-fashioned American values, law and order and respect for the traditional hierarchy. In this way, says Perlstein, Nixon created a new dividing line in the rhetoric of American political life that remains with us today. At the same time, Perlstein illuminates the many demons that haunted Nixon, especially how he came to view his political adversaries as enemies of both himself and the nation and brought about his own downfall. 16 pages of b&w photos. (May)
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Top customer reviews
1. A very thoroughly researched, insightful, penetrating book about one of the most interesting periods in American history;
2. While it isn't completely about Nixon, it describes the man and his history in some detail and Nixon is a very interesting man;
3. Perlstein does an excellent job describing the 'fracturing of America' in a way that doesn't really take a side but provides perspective on both sides.
1. I found Perlstein's writing, on occasion, unduly dense and difficult to sift through. He often selects sentence structure that seems unnecessarily complex. Even though I have an extensive vocabulary, I had to use the Kindle dictionary more than a few times. He even used some words that stumped the Kindle dictionary. When I'm trying to make my way through an 800 page book, I really don't want to go back and re-read a sentence three or four times or hunt around for a dictionary to look up an especially esoteric word. (In the context of this review, I even feel a little sheepish using the word 'esoteric.') If I were a friend of Perlstein's, I would suggest he spend a summer reading Steinbeck.
Moreover, the book is very thought-provoking and worth the considerable effort.
But this book goes beyond history. Perlstein believes that the divide in American society was widened by Nixon, and persists today. I look forward to reading the final volume in the trilogy, "The Invisible Bridge", but I will rest up a bit first. "Nixonland" is a powerful read, particularly I think for those of us who lived through it. Like several other reviewers, I had forgotten a great deal of the craziness even though I was right in the middle of it. It makes today's America look benign by comparison, a useful lesson indeed.
This is the era I lived through, and while there were attempts to bring this information forward at the time, it got hidden by the overwhelming propaganda from the Nixon machine.
We've turned politics into a scorched earth battle, and Nixon is largely responsible for this and exemplifies this.
So many men were killed in Vietnam over a senseless war that Nixon extended. So many men and women in America were killed or robbed of their birthright inheritance as Americans by the policies Nixon enacted and enforced.
He trained us to turn on the weakest among us because they couldn't fight back.
Most recent customer reviews
A helpful primer to, "how we got here".