The Fifties (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Postwar American society is David Halberstam’s own special historical turf. In his trilogy on power in America, he focused on U.S. involvement in Vietnam in The Best and the Brightest (1972), the omnipresence of American media in The Powers That Be (1979), and the American automobile industry in The Reckoning (1986). In a lighter and more personal mood, he took on the great symbolic sport of baseball in Summer of ’49 (1989), spotlighting the American League pennant race between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in 1949. The Fifties combines some of the sober gravity of his highly respected trilogy with a bit of the nostalgic levity of his baseball book. Such a combination is inevitable for the 1950’s—on the one hand, a decade that saw the apocalyptic advance of the hydrogen bomb and the righteous rise of the Civil Rights movement is not to be taken lightly; on the other hand, how can one take seriously a decade whose best-known figures were Lucille Ball and Milton Berle?
Indeed, the period of the 1950’s has not always been taken seriously. Sometimes dubbed the “placid decade,” the era is best remembered as a time of postwar enthusiasm, when the only war was a “cold” one and both the economy and babies were booming. It was the era of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that grandfatherly soldier who “won” the war and would protect a society yearning for a new isolationism from all...
(The entire section is 1953 words.)
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