A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America's most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of Americas favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.
From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.
Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent's dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.
Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the women's suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.
Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredible - if long-forgotten - federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the 20s was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrent's account of Joseph P. Kennedy's legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)
It's a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent's narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing sacramental wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.
Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent's rank as a major American writer.
©2010 Last Laugh, Inc (P)2010 Simon & Schuster
“Daniel Okrent's Last Call is filled with delightful details, colorful characters, and fascinating social insights. And what a great tale! Prohibition may not have been a lot of fun, but this book sure is.” (Walter Isaacson)
“Last Call is - I can't help it - a high, an upper, a delicious cocktail of a book, served with a twist or two and plenty of punch.” (Evan Thomas, Newsweek)
This book is probably okay for what it is -- I was just expecting something different.
It gives the lobbying and legislative history of both prohibition and repeal in some detail. It also talks some about the lawlessness of gangsters that occurred in the '20's and touches on the instability of a society that basically nullifies a law by ignoring it.
I felt it did not do justice to the things that led to Prohibition. Don't misunderstand -- I am not pro-prohibition. In fact, I'm for the legalization of drugs. Nevertheless, while the author did talk about the role of women and women's suffrage in connection with the law, it did not really go into any detail about *why* women supported it - in other words, the social problems women, who were without legal rights or protection in a society where saloons were all men bastions and drunkeness often resulted in poverty and abuse against which they had no recourse. Instead, the author concentrated on anti-immigrant feelings which certainly were a factor, but not the whole story.
So, for a bare-line history, an okay book. For analysis, not so good - even in those areas he addressed.
Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.
Let me begin by saying that I didn't realize until afterwards that this was abridged. I generally never listen to abridged books, but didn't notice this when I bought it - so it's possible that some of my criticisms may be due to the abridged recording.
I did learn a number of things about Prohibition from this book. I did not realize how intertwined the women's suffrage movement and Prohibition were. Nor did I realize some of the long term implications of Prohibition (and not all of them bad).
The degree to which this constitutional amendment was never really enforced is astounding. But even more so, the fact that you could get two thirds of the politicians and the states to vote for it.
On the surface, I felt that the author was somewhat biased in his opinions on various topics related to Prohibition, however, since this is my first read on the subject, he may be right on all counts. Some of the statements made by individuals involved were absolutely incredible!
Don't know whether to recommend this one or not. If you don't mind abridged books and have little knowledge of Prohibition, I'd go ahead and purchase. Glad I read it, but was not captivated by it either.....
This could have been a much more entertaining book (think 1776 or The Great Bridge) if the author had not taken it upon himself to read it. I don't know why these authors think they are actors.
The years during which Prohibition was the law of the land were extremely important in our nations history. American history witnessed the age of invention, a golden age for business, increasing wealth, great contributions to the arts and sciences. The effect of Prohibition on these years was pivotal, and a detailed study of why it happened and what went wrong has never really been written until this book came along.
I thought the book was well written, at least of the amount presented here. I generally do not like abridged editions because they put a slant on the authors intent. I mean, if the author could have written what he wanted to say in fewer words, why wouldn't 've he. As I listened, I kept on wondering what was left out. So, one star off for that.
I agree with a previous writer here. The author was *not* the person to be reading this book. His phrasing is simply terrible. He has a habit of pausing before the last word in a sentence. Very annoying. One star off for that.
In this day and age, there is simply no excuse to abridge an audiobook, especially since an unabridged version has not been offered as well. The author and his writing were not well served here.
Really a terrific recount of what led to Prohibition, its impact and ramifications. Lively read by the author, who has an excellent vocabulary and sense of humor.
I am eager to listen to books that can inform my ignorance and "Last Call" has done just that. Here Okrent tells us about the rise and fall of Prohibition. The narrative is filled with interesting characters and all manner of political maneuvering. The social context and complexity of the story is revealed in a wonderful way.
That said, I wish that something might have been said in the book about the rise of moonshiners and their daring drivers (a precursor to NASCAR?) in rural America. Yet, there is much food for thought here. The writing is enjoyable and Daniel Okrent does a great job of reading his own work.
I find it easier to listen to nonfiction than to read it in print. This book made the whole complicated subject of Prohibition accessible.
This book reminded me of Devil in the White City. It is written in a style that would appeal to someone who might not always read nonfiction.
He was a little flat.
No, I needed time to digest what I had heard before I went on to the next chapter or two.
I really felt like I learned some new things about Prohibition after reading this volume.
This is one of the very few audio books I will not finish. After 2 hours, I have given myself permission to give up. The reader/author gives way too many details that are hard to follow &, in my humble opinion, not very interesting. The author is clearly enthusiastic & knowledgeable about his subject. Unfortunately, it is just plain boring to listen to.
i almost always avoid abridged books
i'm really glad i made an exception in this case
they left in everything you need to know
complaints about the author's narration seem trite
he's a hard nosed literary new york newspaper man
his clipped diction and punchy style seem just right
prohibition was the product of self-righteous insanity
many unlikely events had to come together to make it happen
he does a nice job of weaving these strands into one tale
can you get your mind around the idea of outlawing alcohol ?
just what kind of a nut job nation would even try ?
i now know that we, for a time, were just that sort of a nation
racism / income tax / war / protestant reformation
women's suffrage / ethnic and immigrant fears
pompous evangelism / urban vs. rural / organized crime
they are all woven together into one coherent story
it's told in a pleasantly intellectual smart aleck style
the Ken Burns PBS special "Prohibition" starts tonight
My husband and I were excited to listen to this book on a long car ride because of the topic (How can Prohibition not be full of exciting content?) and because of some short interview with the author that seemed interesting.
Overall, we found that the book didn't live up to our expectations. While we learned a lot, there was just way to much detail in this book. I feel like the book lacked information about what it was actually like to live under Prohibition. For such a colorful period in American history, there weren't many stories (amusing, illustrative, or otherwise. Rather, it read like a play-by-play of the political underpinnings of the legislation leading too, and then against, Prohibition. It was dull and the intense level of detail made it really hard to pay attention to the book.
Some of the other comments complain about the authors' narration, but I think he did a fine job. After hearing the author provide commentary in Ken Burns baseball documentaries, I was happy to find that he was narrating his own book.
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