Nostalgia package for the ""silent generation"" of Eisenhower, a generation that today evidently thinks it was in no way silent. Novelist/journalist Wakefield (Returning, 1988, etc.) arrived in Manhattan as a Columbia student from Indianapolis and was, he tells us, unprepared for the astounding freedom of anonymity that the Upper West Side granted him and for the family feelings he later met with among Greenwich Village bohemians. Younger readers may find these and other memories distant from their own putative needs and, at times, even Wakefield is distant from himself, placing facts from the Sixties back into the Fifties or twice attributing Gordon Jenlons's ghastly musical mÃ‰lange ""Manhattan Towers"" to Stan Kenton or misquoting Allen Ginsberg's ""America."" Even so, Wakefield talks with his many friends still alive from the Fifties and gets their take on the era. His interviewees include Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Murray Kempton, Helen Weaver, Joyce Glassman Johnson, Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, Calvin Trillin, Gay and Nan Talese, and many others. For himself, he defines the era nicely with, ""Maybe the Village of my generation went from the time Dylan Thomas came to the White Horse [the famed Village tavern where Thomas drank his last drink] to the time Bob Dylan showed up [at the White Horse] that night in 1961 wearing his floppy hat."" The liveliest passages here survey jazz joints and players; the explosion of On the Road in 1957 and Wakefield's buttoned-clown antipathy to it; changes in sexual mores as the pessary showed up; Esquire's creative breakthrough with New Journalism; and the slime-crawl of McCarthyism over Manhattan liberals. Batches of local color refresh those who lived through a lost age, or what Kempton calls ""an age of lead,"" now become ""an age of gold.