Amid the confusion and bad vibes

 This is the book equivalent of a survey course, covering crime, politics, music, movies, literature, sports and major events of the year 1969. It is relentlessly US-Centric - you won’t hear a peep about any other country unless it’s Vietnam.  At it’s best, this survey approach introduces the reader to lesser known topics, like the Native American occupation of Alcatraz or the rise of MC5. At it’s worst, 1969 rehashes topics by quoting from deathless sources like Wikipedia or Salon magazine.

That was part of the fascination for me. 1969 is a triumph of secondary research. Kirkpatrick read many a book and magazine article, fearlessly watched DVDs of documentaries and most challenging of all, watched a few movies and listened to a few albums. It’s a shame he didn’t actually talk to anyone who was there. It’s not like he was writing about 1669.

The once-over-lightly feel means nothing really gets its due but in fairness this is a way to whet your appetite, not satisfy it. Still, events like My Lai and Chappaquiddick are no less horrific with the passage of time. Fortunately events like the moon landing, Earth Day and the Jets winning the Super Bowl retain their magic. As a readable introduction to a single year of American history, one could do much worse.

Oddly enough, 1969 isn’t the only year that everything changed. Apparently everything changed in 1959 too.  Maybe 1979 was the year that didn’t change much of anything.

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