James_T._Patterson
Reviews

A Difficult Decade

James Patterson’s controlling idea is that the 60’s became the 60’s in 1965, and that this represented an “Eve of Destruction.”  One struggles for about 300 pages trying to find out . . . destruction of what?

The title comes from a long-forgotten song by a long-forgotten singer, Barry McGuire.  “Eve of Destruction” did get to number one on some charts for a few days.  It followed an eventful three weeks, during which President Johnson “had announced a large and irrevocable escalation in Vietnam,” signed the Voting Rights Act and legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid, and watched while Watts burned down.  “Signs of cultural discord,” writes Patterson, “were appearing in popular music.”  His “cultural discord,” however, seems limited to “a marriage of rock and protest.”  The book is mostly about national politics.

“It was a wonderful time for American liberalism,” Patterson says.  That is, on the surface.  In June, LBJ had convened, under the leadership of Princeton’s Eric Goldman (whom he apparently intended to be his Arthur Schlesinger), a “White House Festival of the Arts.”  If the Kenne dys could invite Nobel Laureates and poets, Hollywood stars and musicians, novelists and artists to their parties and their beds, Johnson could do...

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