IN THE NEW WORLD: Growing Up with America, 1960-1984 by Lawrence Wright

IN THE NEW WORLD: Growing Up with America, 1960-1984

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A baby-boomer memoir more articulate than universal; by the author of City Children, Country Summer (1979). This book began as an essay for Texas Monthly about Wright's childhood years in Dallas, and therein lies the rub. Of Dallas politics and lifestyles, Wright writes with perception (""The prevailing ethic in the city was not hard work but high risk"") and sparkle (his portrayal of LBJ braving ferocious mobs of right-wing socialites during the 1960 presidential campaign is gripping); but his Dallas lies at such a political extreme, and early on he concentrates so much on those Dallas politics that his book begins with a parochialism from which it never fully recovers. Still, a vivid account of that indelible moment when 16-year-old Wright learned of JFK's death, and of the days of national mourning that followed, shimmer with recognition. But as Wright moves on to his college days in New Orleans, his wrestling with the draft and the Vietnam War (he eventually served as a conscientious objector at an American school in Egypt), and his perceptions of the political movements of the 70's and 80's, he falls far short of offering a life-map by which others of his generation can check their own odysseys. Although brilliant analyses of presidents--and Wright's reaction to them--abound, his frequent reference to his Dallas roots makes this more the story of a Texan than that of a generic American; and, more crucially, in his emphasis on politics Wright largely ignores huge, telling chunks of his generation's shared history. Any baby-boomer memoir that makes no mention of Woodstock (or the epiphany of the moon-walk, for that matter) leaves a gaping hole; and only the shortest shrift is given to the cultural tides--from psychedelia to spiritualism to mass-media worship--that exerted as much, if not more, influence on Wright's generation than did the political tenor. A limited barometer, then, of the baby-boomers' past; but still a compelling, smooth, and memorable personal memoir in its own right.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1987
Publisher: Knopf