cover image An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s

An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s

Doris Kearns Goodwin. Simon and Schuster, $35 (480p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0866-3

The high hopes of 1960s liberalism founder on the shoals of the Vietnam War in this nostalgic memoir. Pulitzer winner Goodwin (No Ordinary Time) revisits her late husband Richard Goodwin’s experiences as a speechwriter to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and working on the 1968 presidential campaigns of senators Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. Drawing on Richard’s journals and letters, Goodwin explores his starry-eyed enthusiasm for the landmark civil rights and Great Society measures he helped bring about, and his disillusionment after he left the White House in 1965 and turned against Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War. Goodwin credits him with nudging RFK into an antiwar position and, by orchestrating McCarthy’s New Hampshire primary victory, dissuading Johnson from running for reelection. She paints colorful vignettes of the speechwriter’s craft—“ ‘ask [Richard] if he can’t put some sex in it.... some beautiful Churchillian phrases,’ ” Johnson demanded for a speech on poverty—and of Richard’s mercurial intellect, harnessed in groggy all-nighters spent penning celebrated orations like Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” speech. The narrative is dominated by larger-than-life personalities, especially the tenacious LBJ, who was determined to uplift the downtrodden by riding roughshod over anyone who objected. It’s a vivid portrait of peak liberalism. (Apr.)