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Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia Paperback – 15 Apr 2010


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Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia + How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions + Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (15 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007244282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007244287
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 239,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Francis Wheen is an author and journalist who was named Columnist of the Year for his contributions to the Guardian. He a regular contributor to Private Eye and is the author of several books, including a highly acclaimed biography of Karl Marx which has been translated into twenty languages and the bestselling How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World. He recently wrote the screenplay for The Lavender List, a biopic of Harold Wilson's last days in government. His collected journalism, Hoo-Hahs and Passing Frenzies, won the George Orwell prize in 2003.

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Review

‘Wheen’s trademark blend of voluminous knowledge, ready wit and old-Lefty passion make him a tour guide as eye-opening as companionable.’ Anthony Holden, Daily Telegraph

‘There is no one like Wheen for reminding people who need to be reminded of how stupid they have been…this book is funny, mordant, unforgiving, intelligent and – I think – true’ David Aronovitch, The Times

‘Wheen couldn’t write a dull book if he tried…And while not even he could make the 1970s likeable, few could make the crimes, follies and misfortunes of that wretched decade so entertaining.’ Sunday Times

About the Author

Francis Wheen is an author and journalist who was named Columnist of the Year for his contributions to the Guardian. He a regular contributor to Private Eye and is the author of several books, including a highly acclaimed biography of Karl Marx which has been translated into twenty languages and the bestselling ‘How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World’. He recently wrote the screenplay for ‘The Lavender List’, a biopic of Harold Wilson’s last days in government. His collected journalism, ‘Hoo-Hahs and Passing Frenzies’, won the George Orwell prize in 2003.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By modern life is rubbish on 14 May 2010
Format: Paperback
`I'll read anything by Francis Wheen', says Nick Hornby on the cover blurb. Well, so will I. He's one of England's most entertaining popular essayists, always intelligent, thought provoking, gloriously sarcastic and a master of the well aimed bon mot that deflates pretentions and pomposity. `How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World', his previous book, is a masterpiece - a principled and impassioned defence of rationality in the face of the lunatic forces of chaos.

However, I must confess myself a little disappointed by his latest. I was really looking forward to `Strange Days Indeed'. I find the 70s a fascinating period in political and social history, and couldn't wait to read Wheen's take on it. The result, however, while certainly entertaining, was less coherent than I'd expected.

I assume that Wheen was responding to the current vogue for `Mamma Mia' / `Life on Mars' 70s nostalgia, and to books like Howard Sounes' `The Seventies', that seek to celebrate the decade's many contributions to art and society. No, says Wheen, it really was the decade when the 60s party ended and the hangover set in. His thesis is that it was during the 1970s when `paranoid thinking' or `the paranoid style' became widespread in both political and popular circles. It was this, he says, that laid the groundwork for irrationality to dominate public discourse - the subject of `Mumbo Jumbo'.

The problem is, he never truly gets to grips with what he means by `the paranoid style'. The bulk of the book consists of what are basically essays on political figures or events. Nixon justifies a couple on his own. Others are devoted to the likes of Idi Amin, Harold Wilson, Carlos the Jackal and International Terrorism, the Oz trial and underground culture. These people were undoubtedly paranoid.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. Goold on 20 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Its a common allegory to compare the sixties to the hedonistic party while the seventies was its hangover, but coupled with the sour anxiety at the time ran an even deeper, all-pervasive band of post-excess malaise, rampant paranoia.

The cast here are Nixon and Kissinger acting like Bond Villians, a button-press from a world destroying nuclear arsenal; Wilson and his huddled, terrified acolytes in Downing Street, Uri Gellar and a milion bending spoons, and numerous other mad or maddening characters, acted out against a canvas of drab, the psychadelic rainbows of the previous decade now drained to various shades of grey, lurching deeper into stagnation, fear and gloom. If you've ever read Wheen's previous pieces on the Seventies (theres a couple of choice cuts in 'Hoo-hahs and Passing Frenzies')you'll know what to expect.

As with every book, indeed everything Wheen has ever written, this is Grade A Unputdownable. His style is hilarious yet terrifying, his research deep and thorough, and his eye for the absurd sharp. The anotations come thick and fast, each one a juicy little side order to the main course you'll wolf down.

How the hell we got out of the decade without revolution, right wing coup or nuclear annhiliation remains a mystery, but Im only glad I wasn't around till 1973, and 3 Day Weeks, Crazed Presidents and paranoid PMs meant rather less to me than Watership Down, Star wars and Floella Benjamin.

A great companion piece to David Aaronovitch's very fine 'Voodoo Histories'...but wait. Two brilliant books on paranoic conspiracy out at the same time...there must be a more sinister connection...
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ivor Alexander on 23 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So I see it. When you've had enough of superstition, political hypocrisy, and intellectual dishonesty in general, one of the writers you can turn to for oxygen is Francis Wheen. I've read this book with the greatest of pleasure from start to finish. The work of a mind even more disillusioned than the author of HOW MUMBO-JUMBO CONQUERED THE WORLD. In any case the same wit, the same clarity of thought, the same understatement are present. I am almost surprised that such a rational work can nowadays get published.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James-philip Harries on 23 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At a safe distance, we can laugh at this history. If everyone had known at the time what Francis Wheen reveals of the time we would all have had a nervous breakdown. Our rulers seem to have been mad, bad and (given that they had their fingers on the nuclear button) very dangerous indeed.
Wheen has taken advantage of the deaths of most of the main actors to expose some previously libelous truths. Whether his seventies history would be as mad if extended beyond 1976 or not depends perhaps on whether some of the late seventies figures are still alive.
Of those who are dead, we know that Nixon was a paranoiac drunk, Heath an imbecile, Wilson a fruitcake, the leader of the largest UK trade union a soviet agent... All good rollicking stuff! Great laughs - at a distance.
You'll read this book at a sitting or two. Then you'll want more. Wheen's other stuff is good too:How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern DelusionsHoo-hahs and Passing Frenzies His book on Marx has been highly praised by non_Marxists, and though I've not read it that's good enough for me, but I can't find the link. Can it be that the British are so bored with Socialism that Marx is out of print?
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