cover image 1919: America's Loss of Innocence

1919: America's Loss of Innocence

Eliot Asinof, Author Dutton Books $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-55611-150-1

Asinof considers 1919 a year of cowardice, gross political opportunism and the unleashing of furies. His dramatic examination focuses primarily on four occurrences that ``wrenched the national psyche'': the Senate's rejection of Woodrow Wilson's proposal for a League of Nations; the anti-Bolshevik hysteria that resulted in widespread violence; the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment and the advent of Prohibition; and the rigged World Series, which became known as the Black Sox Scandal. Asinof ( Eight Men Out ) traces the activities of leading ``self-deceivers and opportunists,'' including President Wilson and his principal adviser, Edward House; Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer; gangster Alphonse Capone; and gambler Arnold Rothstein. He shows how the Red Scare, sparked by Palmer, led to brutal transgressions against civil rights, and argues that Prohibition was a period when Americans ``became inured to the finer points of lawlessness.'' The Black Sox Scandal, according to Asinof, was the most telling incident in the country's loss of innocence, and he provides a detailed account of it in a dark but highly readable report on a traumatic year. (May)