Purpose, organization of 'Boom!' unclear
By Dennis Lythgoe
Deseret Morning News
Published: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007
BOOM! VOICES OF THE SIXTIES: PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE '60S AND
TODAY, by Tom Brokaw, Random House, 662 pages, $28.95.
Tom Brokaw, formerly of NBC, is best known as America's most popular
network evening news anchor for 21 years but he broke into book
publishing before he retired with two well-received books, "The
Greatest Generation" and a memoir, "A Long Way from Home."
Now he has taken on the controversial era of the '60s. He has
produced an artificial political demarcation line of memories that
begins with 1963 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy and ends
with the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.
Not quite the entire '60s and almost half of the '70s.
Brokaw seems to be atoning for previously leaving the implication
that only the World War II generation is worthy of serious study. Yet
his look at the '60s is only marginally historical at best and
anecdotal (based loosely on his own life during that decade) along
with interviews with the famous.
He calls 1968 "the volcanic center of the Sixties, with
landscape-altering eruptions every month: political shocks, setbacks
in Vietnam, assassinations, urban riots, constant assaults on
authority, trips on acid, and a trip around the moon."
He calls himself a "typical young white male" from the "prairie
heartland" who had been a Boy Scout, attended Sunday school, drank
too much beer in college but never smoked dope. He married "the love
of his life," a high school classmate named Meredith in 1962 in a
traditional Episcopal church wedding.
They moved to Omaha, Neb., to begin a new life with an entry-level
reporter's job at an Omaha TV station. He made $100 a week and could
barely afford a $90 a month furnished apartment.
"Meredith," Brokaw writes, "who had a superior college record,
couldn't find any work because, as one personnel director after
another told her, 'You're a young bride. If we hire you, you'll just
get pregnant before long and want maternity leave.'"
Brokaw was living in "an unsettling calm before a ferocious storm"
over Vietnam and civil rights.
Moving into "the voices" of the period, Brokaw quotes John Lewis, one
of the leaders of the Selma, Ala., march for racial equality, telling
how a police billy club was cracked over his head, knocking him
unconscious. During the civil rights crusade, Lewis was arrested more
than 40 times.
Oddly enough, Brokaw quotes Bush kingmaker, Karl Rove, talking about
the impact of Kennedy's death on him and Jeff Greenfield, a CBS News
correspondent who wrote speeches for Robert Kennedy when he was only
24. Greenfield remembers an impish Robert Kennedy running for
president and saying to his staff, "We couldn't win this if I had a
After a pause, he added, "Well, I do have a million dollars, and we
still can't win."
Brokaw also quotes Gloria Steinem, Warren Beatty, James Fallows, Jan
Wenner, Gary Hart, George McGovern, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and
numerous others from various fields. He also awkwardly interweaves
the lives and views of modern Americans with those of the '60s.
Brokaw's book is an entertaining read but the organization and the
purpose remains unclear and any message is pretty much lost in a
verbose 662 pages.
'Boom!' 'Funk' recall intriguing decades
December 16, 2007
By Dennie Hall
Readers nostalgic for decades past will find pleasure in perusing two
books that cast a searching spotlight on the 1960s and the '70s.
The '60s book, high on the best-sellers list, is Tom Brokaw's latest
effort, "Boom! Voices of the Sixties, Personal Reflections on the
'60s and Today" (Random House, $28.95). The book gives an account of
Brokaw's life and career and includes interviews with people who give
their perspectives of the good and the bad of the momentous 1960s.
It was a decade of space adventures, musical innovations, drug
culture, assassinations, women's liberation, free speech,
civil-rights advancements and war protests. A Washington Post
literary critic has blasted Brokaw for failure to judge the decade's
merits or lack thereof. Brokaw says the "evidence is still coming in,
and the jury is still out."
Certainly, there is much to praise and much to deplore about that
era, and opinions vary. Former President Clinton, who is quoted at
length in the book, observes: "If you thought something good came out
of the Sixties, you're probably a Democrat; if you thought the
Sixties were bad, you're probably a Republican."
This book, while not as excellent as Brokaw's "The Greatest
Generation," is valuable for its insights and skilled writing.
The other book, written by Thomas Hine, is "The Great Funk: Falling
Apart and Coming Together (on a Shag Rug) in the Seventies" (Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, $30). It was the decade of Watergate, streaking,
gasoline shortages, pet rocks and the lost war in Vietnam. The '70s
saw the first presidential resignation Nixon left office in 1974,
just ahead of certain impeachment. That was followed by the first
pardoning of a president.
As interesting as the text are the dozens of color pictures of the
decade's fashions, cars, furniture, hairstyles, architecture,
entertainment and inventions.
As to the streaking, Hine writes, "For nearly three years, there was
a strong possibility that any sporting event or ceremony, anywhere in
the world, would be interrupted by an unexpected intruder wearing
nothing but sneakers." They started running around naked in 1974.
What prompted it is still a mystery, just as the fad of swallowing
goldfish puzzled people in the 1920s.
Thirty or 40 years from now, how will people view life in 2007?