Picks and Pans Review: Long Time Gone

updated 01/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Curt Smith

The 1970s are painfully recent in some ways—too much so to bear the kind of scrutiny they get from these two offerings. Perhaps, though, that's all the more reason for reading them. Carroll's opus (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $19.95) is a straightforward history of the decade that knocks down, easily enough, the straw man he sets up in his title. Who ever said it seemed like nothing happened in the 10 years that included Watergate, the end of Vietnam, the beginning of the new U.S.-China diplomacy and the rise of feminism? Carroll, a historian who teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz, sees the decade as "a dialogue between established values and the emerging alternatives." He finds plenty of illustrations, particularly in seesawing political trends. Smith's volume (Icarus Press, $15.95) takes a different approach: recent interviews with many of the nation's most prominent figures during the turbulent years 1969-1973, when Smith was a student at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and Geneseo State University in New York. Smith is obnoxiously obtrusive, interjecting asides, telling when he lit a cigarette before asking a question, and suggesting that somehow John Chancellor should be held responsible for the fact that he and Gomer Pyle were television contemporaries. And while Smith tries hard to ask devil's advocate questions, his reporting reflects his rightward political leanings (he is a former speechwriter for John Connally). Smith, though, elicits telling reminiscences from such people as Betty Friedan, Julian Bond, George Wallace and Richard Nixon. In a relatively expansive mood, Nixon talked about his father, excoriated "these hypocrites, the little bastards...the trash like the Abbie Hoffmans and the Jerry Rubins," and says, "All the setbacks, they don't matter if you never give up. Never give up. Never. The key to life, it isn't winning, it's fighting. It isn't being vindicated, it's being right."

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