April 17, 2010

On the Fifies

I write this to tell anyone that is interested that David Halberstam is a fine storyteller. This is true. You will like his books. There is nothing I know to say otherwise. I think knowing this is important, especially if you have not yet opened up a book of his yet.

You see, the 50s is my second book of his, and the same general rule applies. David Halberstam is a fine storyteller, period. However, this is both a pat on the back and a critique. He tells great stories based on the people living the stories he tells. The shame is that his gift is limited. A reader of this book may know some of the big events that happened in the 50s and the people associated with those events, but they will not know what it was like to live those events.

I like Halberstam’s books. They work, but.. But. He writes biographies. This may work if they were not expected to be histories. Individual men (and they are mostly men) are profiled and what they do are profiled. They make actions and they do things that have an effect in the culture. The shame is that they build walls around the world. I have no idea what it was like to be a person in the 50s based on the book. I know, on some level, what happened but I am not that person.
Buy the book, by all means. He does a good job of bringing you in. I am glad I read the book and learned all he brought forth for me to learn. I just wish there was less a focus on people and more of a cultural criticism of the people and the time covered in the book. My own facile view of the time is based on the television shows of the time. These are dealt with much too late in the book to really view the considerations I care about. I wanted to compare reality versus the television shows that granted the best view of reality I knew. Halberstam shows that the visual culture is far removed from reality, but I hoped to engage that much earlier. That necessary and important social criticism does not happen until chapter 34 (pg 508).

Overall, I would recommend this book, as I would the entire author’s work, but I would recommend that you explore more works for context of the period and the