The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964--The Beginning of the 'Sixties'
The Beatles arrived. Clay beat Liston. LBJ, after inheriting the presidency when JFK was shot, trounced Goldwater. The Civil Rights Act became law. Vietnam simmered, and Timothy Leary was on his psychedelic way. Former Chicago Tribune political correspondent Margolis takes readers on an entertaining flashback to 1964 in a breezily well-written, episodically structured book that reads so much like a good PBS film documentary that readers will be creating soundtracks in their own minds. At the center of Margolis's narrative is LBJ, whose blustery mix of bravado and paranoia mirrors a moment in American history when the nation stood perched between supreme postwar confidence and the identity crisis of the late '60s. As a foil to LBJ, Margolis presents Goldwater, the willing but sometimes less than enthusiastic face of a political movement that wouldn't come to fruition until the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. Popular music, sports, the civil rights movement and the growing restlessness of college kids all come under Margolis's gaze. While the book is primarily narrative, Margolis draws broad conclusions when he feels like it (noting, for instance, that 1964 marked the beginning of the triumph of ""cultural liberalism"" and ""political conservatism""). He captures the excitement and conflict of 1964, and he does a particularly good job of outlining how pressure from both the cultural right and left created cracks in the postwar American consensus. Agent, David Black. (Mar.)