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Posts tagged 'History'

The Most Dangerous Man in America, by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis

The Most Dangerous Man in America by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis

Based on official documents, journal entries, interviews, recordings, and news coverage, Minutaglio and Davis present a rollicking, outrageous caper that reads like a gonzo version of Candide. Narrated in a fast-paced present tense, Most Dangerous Man takes place in the tumultuous early 1970s. Widespread outcry against the Vietnam War and the political status quo has erupted into violence. Once-peaceful protests are now being met with brutal crackdowns, and parts of the counterculture movement have traded in “flower power” for dynamite.


Amid dismal approval ratings, first-term president Richard Nixon is growing increasingly desperate to prove that he is the strong leader America needs. He needs a symbol of crime and moral decay he can triumph over, and he chooses a man – Timothy Leary, former Harvard psychologist, LSD evangelist and countercultural guru. Imprisoned in California on trumped-up drug charges and facing additional ones that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life, Leary decides to escape from prison and live his life as a fugitive. Aided by radical leftists, Leary embarks on a globe-trotting, substance-fueled odyssey as he tries to survive beyond Nixon’s grasp.


The Most Dangerous Man paints Leary as a complex and unlikely (but not unlikeable) protagonist, and the authors do an outstanding job of contrasting his intellect and charisma with his flaws and poor decisions. What keeps the perpetually stoned Leary relatable, however, is his frequent haplessness and his juxtaposition with less sympathetic figures. Nixon, the main antagonist, is portrayed as mentally unstable, vindictive, and surrounded by cronies who frequently indulge his most sinister tendencies. Meanwhile, Leary's supposed allies prove just as problematic for him, as he time and time again gets shaken down by (literally) bomb-throwing Weathermen and Black Panthers, a loose network of drug trafficking hippies, shady lawyers, and a real-life Bond villain. What emerges is a portrait of a man who thought he had only his chains to lose, but learns quickly how wrong he was, and whose initial fecklessness ends up costing him dearly.

Justin Picks  History

 

But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past

KlostermanIf you had asked Aristotle why a rock thrown into a pond sinks to the bottom, he would have said it’s because the rock wants to get back to its rightful place below the water. This notion was the prevailing wisdom for some 2,000 years until Isaac Newton came along with his theory of gravity and proved that it wasn’t the case. Is it possible that in another 2,000 years our understanding of gravity will be similarly upended? In his latest book, Chuck Klosterman asserts that it’s not only possible, but probable. Unless of course, it isn’t. Confused yet?

Klosterman tries to imagine what future generations will think of paragons of modern life. What will people 20, 100, or 1,000 years from now think (or know) about rock music, football, the Constitution, or the very fabric of the universe? It’s almost impossible to even make such predictions. The paradigm shifts that change our perception are so monumental our present-day brains can’t even comprehend them. (This view is nothing new, it should be noted.) But that doesn’t keep Klosterman from trying to predict the future. He probes these questions in an irreverent, funny, and thought-provoking manner. Interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson, David Byrne, Junot Díaz, Richard Linklater, and many, many more round out the text.

Klosterman began the notable part of his writing career as a music critic. His earlier books focused on highbrow examinations of lowbrow culture, but his following works took a more philosophical turn. But What If We’re Wrong? is his most brain-bending book to date. I predict it will keep creative, open minds from turning into mush over the summer. 

book

Philosophy  Jake's Picks  History

06/20/16
 

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