A forty-year retrospective of American trivia, trends, pseudo-objective insights, quick portraits and strained paradoxes. The Depression is infused with the Roosevelt glamour and scorn for Republican troglodytes; Horton's dixie cups, Okies, 25-cent movies and six-cent-an-hour jobs give way to G.I. Joe with his Ernie Pylesque paraphernalia, then to the age of Robert Hall, Sputnik and the "dusky" Angela Davis. Often enough, as with the "sex-drenched" 1960's, Manchester foregoes explicit interpretation. His basic slant is an epiglottal liberalism of the sort which expresses some sympathy for Owen Lattimore but fails to question the guilt of the Rosenbergs, while assuming a patrician superiority to the McCarthyites. The Bomb -- had to be used to save lives; the Bay of Pigs -- too bad the CIA muffed it. Legal and moral turpitude such as Judge Hoffman's at the Chicago Seven trial is often covered by omission. The book's farinaceous view of the world is speckled with American violence (the Republic Steel massacre, postwar comic books) and with a certain synthetic journalistic competence (Truman's 1948 whistlestop buildup). Even after gorging on the author's conventional wisdom and patronizing glosses, the reader will know little of what it was really all about. A big comedown from Manchester's The Arms of Krupp (1968).