SHAKY GROUND: The Sixties and its Aftershocks

Alice Echols, Author
Alice Echols, Author . Columbia Univ. $49.50 (304p) ISBN 978-0-231-10670-2 ISBN 0-231-10671-8
Paperback - 303 pages - 978-0-231-10671-9
Hardcover - 317 pages - 978-0-231-50255-9
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This collection of 15 essays by a noted social critic makes a good stab at reassessing both the decade and its continuing effects on culture and politics. Echols's canvas is broad, covering everything from the effect of TV on the civil rights movement in the 1950s to fights between lesbians and heterosexual women in the feminist movement of the 1970s and the sexual subtext of disco. The best essays relate directly to the '60s. "Hope and Hype in Sixties Haight-Ashbury" discusses the economics of the invention of "hippie clothing," how the accessibility of cheap commercial real estate helped promote rock music culture, and the ideological wars between the anarchist, politically astute Diggers and the more amorphously constituted "hippies." Even when the pieces lack a clear narrative line, Echols scores points with smart critiques of popular culture, such as her look at Joni Mitchell's engagement of race in her music or her critiques of Andrea Dworkin's views on porn. All but three of these essays are reprinted from various venues, including the Village Voice, L.A. Weekly and a slightly rewritten chapter from Scars of Sweet Paradise, her critically acclaimed biography of Janis Joplin. They thus have trouble holding together as a '60s book; a Voice review of Eric Lott's great 1994 book, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, for example, is perceptive, but sits alone with only the slightest connection to the other pieces. Echols is a great cultural critic, but this book, as a single work, is less than the sum of its parts. (Feb.)

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