FAMOUS IN AMERICA: The Passion to Succeed by Peter N. Carroll
Kirkus Star

FAMOUS IN AMERICA: The Passion to Succeed

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Fonda, Wallace, Schlafly and Glenn are four famous Americans who--says Peter Carroll-are driven by a passion to succeed--and did. And passion is the keynote to these lives. Carroll rehearses their stories from childhood up, in alternating chapters, decade by decade, speaking both as biographer and historian. He's not out to destroy their myths or accomplishments, but rather hopes to isolate the psychological similarities in their drives for success. Each is ambitious, aggressive, relentless. They appeal to a fighting spirit: ""the fighting judge""; ""the MIG-mad marine""; ""Saint Jane""; and ""the woman who said that God's greatest gift to America was the atom bomb."" They are also angry but ""proficient in self-control"" and ""sought through power not only to 'show off' their strength but also to 'show' their opponents. . . (T)here are unmistakable, recurrent themes of vengeance."" The era between 1958 and 1983 found the nation undergoing major value shifts. ""The principle of separate but equal gave way to a multiracial society; the feminine mystique passed on to the two-paycheck household; the belief in American technology confronted international competition and ecological limits; the idea of military hegemony faced pluralistic communism and the rise of the Third World."" Wallace, four times governor of Alabama, began his career representing the NAACP before finding that his bread would be better buttered by segregationists. Today, he presides over a new atmosphere of racial accommodation. Fonda fled from portraying flirts, sexual victims and frustrated wives, found nudity, adultery and obscenity in France, politicization and independence in the 70's, and currently is the entrepreneur of fitness, health and graceful aging. Silent majority sweetheart Schlafley used her constituency to defeat the ERA, became a leading Reagan conservative, and has risen with the conservative revival. Glenn has gone from soldier and space hero to senator and failed presidential aspirant, riding on commitments to ""moderate reform, suspicion of foreign powers, and respect for technology."" Do these four lives serve as paradigms for the period? On occasion these four refused to take the easy course and flow with the times-and in standing up angrily for an unpopular cause found themselves strangely representative. In any event, Carroll's fighters can't scrape up a dull page among the four of them. Lively, indeed!

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1985
Publisher: Dutton