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The Fifties were not boring at all, according to longtime Dartmouth conservative and National Review editor Hart. Rather, they were a time of intellectual, political, athletic, and artistic ferment--a period ""which in retrospect seems to grow ever more attractive."" In a text that wobbles from kitschy nostalgia to the ""tergiversations"" of Reinhold Neibuhr, Hart revisits his Fifties. His sports were tennis and baseball, and each gets its chapter. He studied at Columbia, so the intellectual action is situated on the Morningside Heights of Trilling, Barzun, and Mark Van Doren. His great writer was Hemingway, so we have a lot of him to reconsider (even written out as he was). He followed the modern poets, so every Columbia reading by Eliot or Auden gets its page. However, such works as Andersonville, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, and Advise and Consent are also cited as evidence that ""to find anything comparable you had to go all the way back to the Twenties."" As for politics: ""You only have to cite the names Hiss, Chambers Rosenberg. . . to begin to recall the political intensity of the period. What was at issue there was no 'witch-hunt' but the question of just how a free society ought to deal with demonstrable conspiracy."" (A chapter entitled ""More Real Witches"" concludes--at length--that Owen Lattimore was ""part of the culture of communism."") Following his own inclinations, Hart also offers a sizable set piece on Bill Tilden, a celebrity of the Twenties; a chapter on the Dodgers and Yankees of the Thirties and Forties; and long sections on his experiences as a writer for Nixon and Reagan in the Sixties and Seventies. His facts are often as weak as his structure: among those who ""produced an extraordinary popular music between 1945 and 1955,"" he lists Gershwin and Hart (dead), Kern (dying), and Sondheim (13 years away from his first show). A personalized pastiche--introduced by William Buckley--for others of a like persuasion.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Crown