Told with urgency and sharp political insight, Nixonland recaptures America's turbulent 1960s and early 1970s and reveals how Richard Nixon rose from the political grave to seize and hold the presidency.
©2008 Rick Perlstein. All rights reserved.; (P)2009 BBC Audio
"A richly detailed descent into the inferno - that is, the years when Richard Milhous Nixon, 'a serial collector of resentments,' ruled the land." (Kirkus Reviews)
The *book* "Nixonland" is fascinating. Though one can quibble about some of Perlstein's choices (relatively little space devoted to the 1960 election compared to, e.g., Nixon's role in the 1966 Republican midterm-election resurgence), the details about seemingly minor politics and politicians, many now largely historical footnotes (Calif. Gov. Pat Brown; N.Y. Mayor John Lindsay; Illinois Sen. Charles Percy) are a kind of Rorschach of the politics in the 1960s. And that minute detail is what, ultimately, explains why many folks who supported Kennedy in 1960 and Johnson in 1964 had come, by 1968 and, especially 1972, to vote for Nixon in droves.
Richard Nixon is the main character, of course, in all his bottomless pathology -- smart; conniving; petty; crafty; conflicted; envious. But this book tells the story of this talented yet deeply flawed man against the vast canvas of his era, showing how easily history could have taken a different path.
But like several other reviewers, I found this *edition* wanting because of the narrator's careless pronunciation -- I counted at least a dozen relatively well-known folks (including Dean Acheson, Nguyen Cao Ky, and Tom Huston, infamous today for the "Huston Plan" that presaged Watergate) whose names he botched, along many place-names of Vietnam (e.g., Ton Son Nhut Air Base). There are reams of audio news reports from that era against which contemporary pronunciations of those names can be checked -- it's not as if this book were about life in the 1850s, after all. For those who lived through the era, the constant mispronunciations were both annoying and distracting. Overall, the book itself rates a "5" -- but this version loses a notch because of the narrator's failure to "fact check" pronunciations easily accessible in the public record -- which are the coin of the realm in a spoken word edition.
I am really enjoying listening to this selection. It's a lively history of the turbulent years of the late fifties through the early seventies, with an emphasis on understanding how the Nixon presidency played on and widened the polarizations that are still gripping this country: gaps in education, race, social standing. How Nixon's own jealousies and resentments helped him play on the resentments of the people whom he named "The Silent Majority".
The book is interesting, well written, never dry, and it's obvious the writer is completely engaged and passionate about his subject.
OK, that's the book. It's great.
I agree with Jerrold that the publisher of this audiobook should be ashamed of the shoddy job this reader did. Not only does he mispronounce many words, but more embarrassingly, names like Dean AY-chison, Sander VAN-oker, and more. Come one, these are people in history. How could an editor let this go by? It's tough not to find it a little distracting.
Nonethless, I can almost wholeheartedly recommend this listen. The quality of the book is good enough to ignore the idiocy of the reader.
Just when I thought I knew everything there was to dislike about Nixon, along comes this book. Intriguing insights about the roots of the current political divide. Leftish point of view, but honest about the left's dropping the ball when the field seemed wide open after 1964. I found the book exceptionally well read, though, as others have commented, the mispronunciation of familiar names almost made me jump out of my shoes.
So much of my life was impacted by Nixon this felt like a personal history and I am actually mentioned on page 514 as subject of an article by Garry Wills. I loved this book before I ran across that reference listening as I rode my bicycle. I put many miles on the bike since I did not want to stop the narrative. Such a turbulent fractious time clearly explained in rich detail. Such a definitive history of the Nixon years and Nixonland - a perfect title. If you had any interest in politics and now find yourself at 63 or 64 you know this history and this book brings it all back while filling in all the gaps. It is so good the minor mispronunciations are trivial and easily dismissed.
I used to ask my parents how they could have put up with McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee - I expect my kids to ask me how we could have ever allowed Nixon to be President. That makes this book a great mystery.
This is an excellent analysis of the rise of Richard Nixon in the light of new documentation that has become available in recent years. It is also a great way to see the rise of current political and press figures in the context of their early careers.
The narration is well paced, but the Mr. Thorne has learn how to pronounce names and relatively simple English words. A number of prominent American journalists and politicians have had their names butchered and I even heard him pronounce the name of the feminist magazine, "Ms", as "miss". Common now, how come the producer didn't pick this up and do a re-take?
However, this shouldn't detract from the insight into the distorted and small mind of the man who was Richard Nixon.
I loved the book, mainly, I guess, because I came of adult age in 1960. So Nixon was part of my early adult life. As I listened, it brought back many memories of how I reacted to what was happening politically and socially around me. My "but" is that the narrator mispronounced many names. Very jarring to me: like he didn't have a clue as to who he was talking about. That said, I still highly recommend this audible book.
Nixonland is a fine book. It gives background information on our history that is sometimes lacking in books of this time period.
That said, my main objection is that the reader cannot seem to pronounce names of people,places, and even ordinary words. One would think that an editor or someone would have checked this out.
As I said earlier, the book is good, but the mispronounced words really detract the listener.
Going into this book, I knew 3 things about Richard Nixon. He was a Republican. He was a liar. He resigned in the middle of the mother of all political scandals. These 3 facts I gleaned from reading All The President's Men in high school.
This book gave depth and character to not only Nixon, but all the various agitators of the 60s and 70s. It explained quite a lot about why my uncle, a veteran, is still angry about Vietnam. It gave context to that swift-boat nonsense from the Kerry presidential campaign that I didn't understand when it happened. It revealed the origins of the current bugaboos of the Republican party: Pat Buchanan, Karl Rove, Chuck Grassley, to name a few. Like the Iliad, it was epic in scope and stopped just shy of where you thought it was going.
I also really enjoyed the narrator. His tone may have been slightly less than neutral and he may have mispronounced things, but this material had the potential to be mind-numbingly dry in audio format, and I enjoyed the injections of personality and drama.
trying to see the world with my ears
This listen contributed more to my understanding of the United States than any other book I've encountered to date. Although written from a definite point of view, the author does not disguise his bias -- and as the adage goes, every view is from a point.
I became interested in learning more about Nixon through the Watergate novel. Rather than making me "hate" Nixon, this study further humanizes him.
Perlstein is able to sustain a strong narrative though out the 36+ hours. This is biography, chock full of social history, that reads like a novel. In fact, it's more a bio of Nixonland than of the man himself.
There are mispronunciations as noted in other reviews (and maybe my Canadian ears missed many), but overall, I thought the narrator was very easy on the ears, which is more important in such a long haul.
I can't imagine ever having read a book this book in print form. Perhaps audiobooks will do as much to promote Global understanding as the world trotting Kissinger!
I was alive for a good chunk of the time period covered here but was amazed to find so much foreign to me. I didn't become politically aware until there were "Don't blame me I voted for McGovern" bumper stickers. It is hard to think about this time period in light of where we are today, where the good guys, like Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the baddies like Nixon have been enshrined by history. This book did a great job at helping me understand how, for example, a working class white person in the 1960's could be so threatened by civil rights and the war protesters even though history has largely vilified them for that stance. The time period covered was a terrifying one to many. Today, we talk about a "protest" at the 1968 Democratic convention; I can see now how many at the time felt society itself was disintegrating. I was also amazed to learn so much about the liberal wing of the Republican party and the conservative wing of the Democratic. The changes that took place in this relatively short period of time still define where we are today.
OK, there were mispronunciations. But overall I thought the narration was excellent. At times his voice reminded me of David McCollough's narration of Ken Burn's Civil War--it was that good.
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