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Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia [Paperback]

Francis Wheen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 April 2010

‘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.


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Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia + How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions + Karl Marx
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (15 April 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007244282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007244287
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 259,503 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.

Product Description

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Seventies Comedown. 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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paranoia aplenty, but a 'Golden Age'? 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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common sense is so rare. 10 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This should be part of the general education system in trying to get the next generation to think critically for themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strange days indeed. 29 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great read. Takes you back when all things were so great I lovd the 70,s growing up in that time was my youth.Cant believe some of the things that were done then to what it is like now!!!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes the Soviets seem sane. 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely entertaining, and scary
This great book by Francis Wheen (the author of a series of excellent and thought provoking titles) presents the almost forgotten decade of the 70s. Read more
Published on 11 April 2012 by Ioannis Glinavos
4.0 out of 5 stars The time the Brits started changing their manner
I recently have read Francis Wheen's political book, i.e. Strange Days Indeed." As a former columnist for the Guardian, he recalls a number of drastic scandals conducted by... Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2011 by superblues
5.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye 70s
The 70s were a grim, depressing decade (no wonder Erasure had a song where Alison Moyet bid farewell to the decade with no regrets)..... except it wasn't ALL bad. Read more
Published on 7 April 2011 by Hugh Scantlebury
3.0 out of 5 stars An alternative perspective on the 1970s
This is an extremely entertaining book about the decade I find most fascinating: the 1970s. Wheen's central theme is the fear, paranoia and conspiracy that pervaded both American... Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2011 by Neil Kernohan
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Bull
Those of us who lived through the 70's know that this is absolute rubbish.

There was no 'mass paranoia' and we certainly did not have 'cold leftovers for supper and a... Read more
Published on 4 May 2010 by A UK Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars The 1970s
This book is an amalgam of facts, fiction, biased - and dis-information and pure propaganda. It contains hilarious portraits of a beleaguered Richard Nixon and his room mate Henry... Read more
Published on 1 May 2010 by Luc REYNAERT
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Days Indeed
the book arrived very promptly and in good condition. I have not yet read it, as I have a large backlog of literature!
Published on 3 Nov 2009 by C. Walker-Lyne
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