Here is a brilliant and brilliantly entertaining tour de force of American politics from one of journalism's most acclaimed commentators. History turns on a dime. A missed meeting, a different choice of words, and the outcome changes dramatically. Nowhere is this truer than in the field where Jeff Greenfield has spent most of his working life, American politics, and in three dramatic narratives based on memoirs, histories, oral histories, fresh reporting with journalists and key participants, and Greenfield's own knowledge of the principal players, he shows just how extraordinary those changes would have been.
These things are true: In December 1960, a suicide bomber paused fatefully when he saw the young president-elect's wife and daughter come to the door to wave goodbye.... In June 1968, RFK declared victory in California, and then instead of talking to people in another ballroom, as intended, was hustled off through the kitchen.... In October 1976, President Gerald Ford made a critical gaffe in a debate against Jimmy Carter, turning the tide in an election that had been rapidly narrowing. But what if it had gone the other way?
The scenarios that Greenfield depicts are startlingly realistic, rich in detail, shocking in their projections, but always deeply, remarkably plausible. You will never think about recent American history in the same way again.
©2011 Jeff Greenfield (P)2011 Penguin
No plot spoilers please!
I thought the idea for this book sounded fascinating and something I would love. I think the concept of how small changes and a random quick decision can have powerful long reaching effect on our lives weighs heavy in hindsight. So much can hinge on things that seem unimportant at the time.
The problem for me was that the book just missed the mark. It bogged down after the first third and I lost interest. It was a shame because it was a fun premise and had potential. In the end boring and slow. Sorry to say that I can't recommend this one.
First section is almost worth buying the book for. After that the author got carried away simulating what would have happened if Robert Kennedy had not been killed. It goes on for way too long. The author seems to think highly of the Kennedy's and gets progressively more generous in inventing a different future that could have been with Bobby becoming Prez. Not planing to buy from this author again.
I love the "what if.." premise in thinking about history. In the hands of a good historian it can be provocative and entertaining. Unfortunately Mr. Greenfield's exegesis is overwrought, often tedious and overlong. He brings firsthand knowledge to his scenarios with some marginally imaginative ideas about how things might have been but that doesn't compensate for his turgid style.
Only if they love political history, would they enjoy the level of historical detail the author uses to justify his alternative realities.
The level of historical detail used to explain why the plots take their directions.
Having seen Jeff Greenfield on TV for many years I expected a well thought-out, well researched collection of alternative histories, but what I didn't expect was it to be so well written that I felt that it brought me into the hall of power, as his new history played out. BIG kudos to Micheal Krammer for his performance bringing these well know modern historic figures to life.
The alternate histories.
LBJ. The man knows how dt do Southern accents.
What Could have Been.
I'm sure any alternate history fan will give this a listen.
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