Thursday, May 02, 2013


One of the grandkids is discovering our common past.  He's saying it is a pity he wasn't in Paris in 1968, so as to have a part in the making of a better world.  He adds that he understands the opportunity carried an uncountable risk of death, but those are the breaks (an older cuz, with the wisdom of years, says he may get his chance yet).

I can grok.  As I told him, I  have often thought it ungracious of my parents that they did not birth me 15 years earlier so I could have had a chance my ass shot off for Stalin in Spain in 1937.  But always ready to encumber with help, it occurred to me to offer up a short list of background reading.  I suggested:
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, A History of the World, 1914-1991
Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the 20s to the 90s
Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
 So, one red, one pink, one deep blue, maybe flaming purple. We report, you decide.    But then I got to thinking: all three of these guys are Eurocentric.  Forget about the subtitles, yes, I mean Hobsbawm and Johnson just as much as Judt.    And I wondered what, exactly, would you offer that provided the same focus on the United States?

I really can't answer that question.  I can think of a lot of good books about the US in the late 20th Century but they're mostly specialized, single topic.  I hardly think he is primed yet for, say, Murray Kempton's Part of Our Time.   Or Rick Perlstein's  Before the Storm.  Or Richard Ben Cramer's What it Takes.  Or--but like I say, I'm too blinkered.  I want big picture.  And no, despite your entreaties, I will not be the one to serve up Howard Zinn.  Kid should  be able to find some things for himself, like Story of O or Fanny Hill.

Any suggestions?


Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Current America? Big picture? Young 'un?


Buce said...

Now, that is a fascinating suggestion, which had not occurred to me. It was one of the first "adult" books I read--though I was older than he--and it lifted the top of my head off.

Might want to make sure he also reads the Old Regime and the French Revolution to develop the right note of political pessimism.

lincoln's beard said...

I was thinking the book you're looking for in/on America would probably be a biography.

So maybe Nixonland? I made add Age of Fracture for the post-70s stuff.

jafd said...

Well, the two best books on 'America in the '60's', IMAO, are both (now) 'historical' novels:
James Carroll, _Prince of Peace_
George R. R. Martin, _The Armageddon Rag_