Strange Days Indeed : The Golden Age of Paranoia Paperback
'If the 1960s were a wild weekend and the 1980s a hectic day at the office, the 1970s were a long Sunday evening in winter, with cold leftovers for supper and a power cut expected at any moment.' A jaw-droppingly brilliant account of how the seventies was defined by mass paranoia told with Francis Wheen's wonderfully acute sense of the absurd.
The nostalgic whiff of the seventies evokes memories of loons and disco, Abba and Fawlty Towers.
However, beneath the long hair it was really a theme park of mass paranoia. 'Strange Days Indeed' tells the story of the decade that a young Francis Wheen walked into having pronounced he was dropping out to join the alternative society.
Instead of the optimistic dreams of the sixties he found a world on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown, huddled over candles waiting for the next terrorist bomb, kidnapping or food shortage warning.
Whether it was Nixon's demented behaviour in the White House, Harold Wilson's insistence that 'they' (whoever 'they' were) were out to get him, or the trial of Rupert Bear, it is a story almost too fantastical to be true. With his brilliantly acute sense of the absurd Francis Wheen slices through the pungent melange of mistrust and conspiratorial fever to expose the sickly form of a decade in which nations were brought to a sclerotic halt by power cuts, military coups, economic anarchy and the arrival of Uri Geller.
Since the Great Crash of our generation barely a week passes without some allusion to that distant decade.
As we are consumed by the heady stench of our own collective meltdown, there is no better guide than Francis Wheen to shine his Swiftian light on the true nature of the era that has returned to haunt us.
Amidst the chaos 'Strange Days Indeed' is an hilarious and jaw-droppingly revealing chronicle of the golden age of the paranoid style.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 352 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 15/04/2010
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9780007244287
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by qstewart
Strange Days Indeed by Francis Wheen is an interesting look at the 1970s primarily through the political goings on in the United States and Great Britain in the early 1970s. It took me a while to get interested in the book because much of the Watergate information was already known. But interest grew as the book went into the paranoia of leaders in other countries such as Great Britain, Uganda, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. Also interesting was the inclusion of the radical groups and how they too seemed to be reacting to the feeling that "they" are out to get us. Wheen does a good job of including movies and books of the era to show how the feeling of paranoia was effecting all aspects of our culture. One can use those parts of our culture as a window into what was going on in the nation's collective mind. But Mr. Wheen stops in the mid-70s and one wonders if the madness stopped then or continues to go on at the top levels of governments around the world. It is interesting to apply some of "paranoid style" that Richard Hofstadter coined in the early 1960s to some of the leaders and events of today.
Review by ponder
An interesting look at the seventies to be sure, however, I felt caught up in the small versus broad view of that era. What saved the read for me was Wheen’s sense of humor and mischievousness. It is worth chewing through some of the denser bits to get to the gems of wit.Many of the references were not familiar to me and necessitated a little digging on my part. I would certainly recommend the book for folks that enjoy political commentary and are already familiar with some of the political machinations of this decade or are willing to put in the time to familiarize themselves with elements of the material.
Review by ten_floors_up
Seeing this from the British side of the pond, I found it an interesting read - if not as funny as the jacket blurbs suggested. The seventies were my teenage years and things like 3-day weeks and power cuts early in the decade were just a backdrop to life - my mind was on other things. The crazier, almost psychotic side of USA politics he describes passed me by, though I was certainly aware of the Watergate skullduggery. I was also intrigued to read the reviews from those to young to have experienced the 70s in some way, as I did wonder what my daughters would make of it without a bit of pre-knowledge of the personalities who figure in the anecdotes.