In 1993, my Aunt Anne gave me a first edition copy of David Halberstam's book The Fifties. I read it front to back and have literally turned to it for reference at least a hundred times since then. Just last month, while researching information about Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy, I flipped through its pages knowing I would get an indepth, and an unbiased-as-possible journalistic view of the so-called 'McCarthy Era' or 'McCarthyism'. My mom saw me reading the book and said--"What's that big book you're reading?" I quiped, "This is the best book ever written about 1950's history. It's one of my favorite books--I'm reading a bit about J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. I've always been interested in the FBI."
"I know. And Watergate and Nixon. Was that the book you were reading when you were into Edward R. Murrow last month?" asked my mom.
"Yes. This is the book," I replied.
"Wow. You've had that book a LONG time. I think I'd like to look at it sometime. It sounds interesting!"
This was the first time my mother had heard about David Halberstam. I told her a little bit about him. She was hooked and said she couldn't wait to finish reading her current novel so she could sink her teeth into The Fifties--that was, after all, the decade she spent as a teenager. I've always envied her for that: rock-n-roll was invented; James Dean was gracing the silver screen with teen angst and an unparalleled display of on-screen emotion; politics were heated; the Beat Poets were assembling and being heard all the way from New York to San Francisco; drive-ins were all the rage; McDonalds was born. (Okay--perhaps that wasn't such a great thing after all--but back then it sure was 'swell'.)
Halberstam's book, The Fifties, truly makes me feel as though I'm somehow back in the Fifties. It's as if I'm taking a literal tour of the Fifties and Halberstam is my tour guide. His writing elicits great visuals. His writing is so fluid that he can take a string of facts and glue them together so poetically you feel as though you're reading a fictional Book of the Month selection, rather than a history book filled with thousands of facts, names, and dates.
As I stated above, I was reading The Fifties just last week, on Sunday, April 22. I am saddened to report that David Halberstam passed away on Monday, April 23, in a car crash.
This news struck me as unbelievable considering he died just a day after I was reading one of his books. Similarly, Kurt Vonnegut died just a day after I finished reading A Man With No Country. Go figure. Two of my favorite authors dying within weeks of each other--both dying a day after I finished reading a selection of their work, respectively.
I know one thing's for sure: I'm not reading any Paul Auster books for a VERY LONG TIME!