A sparkling if occasionally self-righteous whirlwind tour of our times, from the end of the Roaring '20s until today. Excerpted from his Guiness Book of Records-worthy diary (more than 20 million words written over 67 years and counting), this is a true rarity: an eyewitness account of some of the major events and characters of the 20th century. Begun when Ellis (Echoes of Distant Thunder, 1974, etc.) was a high school student in Kewanee, Ill., his diary chronicles the struggles of a nation burgeoning into a world superpower as it follows the personal triumphs and failures of its author. From the beginning, Ellis expected great things of his diary. Early on he noted ecstatically, ""Well, I have accomplished my one great purpose--to keep a diary one whole year without a single day missed! And if I can do that thing so faithfully for one year, surely I should be able to continue it the rest of my life."" Ellis defied the odds by actually writing daily, only stopping briefly at the death of his beloved second wife, Ruthie, in 1965. From Kewanee (""Oh, when in hell am I going to get the hell out of this jerkwater town?"") Ellis went to college, became a reporter in New Orleans, Peoria, and finally New York City, served in the army, and along the way met personages great and small, including Harry Truman, who told Ellis in 1956 that he always slept well because ""anyone with a clear conscience sleeps well""; Irving Berlin, who played on his specially made piano (he could only compose in the key of F sharp) while Ellis sang along; and E.E. Cummings, who told Ellis that ""this business of lowercase for [his] signature--people just made it up."" A front row seat for the show of a lifetime.