on 4 March 2002
Have you ever thought that the 60's wasn't all it was cracked up to be? Ever wondered why so much praise is lavished on the acid-fuelled gibberings of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Timothy Leary and all the other gods of the counter-culture? Ever winced at the misogynist bile masquerading as literature from the pen of Norman Mailer? Perhaps wondered whether current record levels of drug misery, crime and social breakdown could have had their antecedents in the so -called flower children of the love decade?
If so, then this book's for you. Kimball's acid demolition of the leading lights of 60's literary and political radicalism is a scary but hilarious read. His argument is essentially that, although the drug experimentation and flirtations with sexual promiscuity and violent insurrection seemed deliciously radical in the 60s, the attitudes promulgated then have since become mainstream, and this has proven destructive and corrupting when applied to society as a whole and not just the priviliged elite.
It's hard to disagree with this analysis, which is persuasively put. If "the Long March" has a fault, it is that Kimball's assault on the 60s is occasionally a little too shrill and curmudgeonly. Much of the radical posturing ofthe time was undoubtedly juvenile and facile. But there was plenty to oppose in the 60s - racial segregation, the war in Vietnam - and to dismiss it all is as rebellion for it's own sake is a little harsh. Highly recommended though.
on 14 March 2005
Kimball is comprehensive, I will give him that. But if you are looking for an objective work on the Sixties, please avoid this book. This is a political exercise, not a serious analysis.
On a literary level, Kimball constantly regurgitates the same quotes to highlight his points. He uses the exact same Sontag quote about four times in one chapter. He refuses to engage with any ideas or analysis other than that the Sixties were a failure. He disregards any kind of structural analysis of the period, and relies on highly personal attacks on Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer to get by. He does not engage with the historiography of the period, relying on his own internal judgements of writers.
To sum up, if you want a good objective piece of writing on the Sixties, avoid this book LIKE THE PLAGUE.