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A Journalist's Folly,
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This review is from: Seventies: The Sights, Sounds and Ideas of a Brilliant Decade (Paperback)
A history of the 1970's which explores a decade which gave us culture as diverse as Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice and the Space Hopper set in an appropriate historical and social context with a bit of good old fashioned nostalgia thrown in-sounds like a really enjoyable read doesn't it? Wrong. For a start, Sounes starts with the false premise that everyone has utterly dismissed the 1970's as a cultural desert peopled with nothing more stimulating than long hair and Showaddywaddy whereas anyone knows that every epoch is full of highpoints and lowpoints even such legendary times as the Sixties. This fault would be less serious if the author had some original perspectives to offer on his chosen era: but do we really need to be told David Bowie was one of the most innovative performers of the early 1970's or that punk was a `watershed'? Some the examples chosen to demonstrate the creativity of the period are bizarre: The Sydney Opera House was conceived in the 1950's and built partially in the 1960's and few would think that Andy Warhol or Bob Dylan did their best work after 1969. Then there are absurd omissions: nothing about theatre, classical music or dance, little on fashion, advertising or television except the predictable chapter on Monty Python. Sounes has done some research for this book, but doesn't have the intellectual equipment to synthesise it into a coherent narrative: his use of `great', `masterpiece', `classic' and `brilliant' make his writing seem like something from the sixth form common room. Here we have a journalist trying to sound like a great popular historian but without the knowledge to sustain it: Peter Hennessy would have done the job ten times better. If you know nothing about this time you will find some useful food for for thought here, but many others will surely reflect how much better this book could have been.