In the New World: Growing Up with America from the Sixties to the Eighties
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We first meet Larry Wright in 1960. He is thirteen and moving with his family to Dallas, the essential city of the New World just beginning to rise across the southern rim of the United States. As we follow him through the next two decades—the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the devastating assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the sexual revolution, the crisis of Watergate, and the emergence of Ronald Reagan—we relive the pivotal and shocking events of those crowded years.
Lawrence Wright has written the autobiography of a generation, giving back to us with stunning force the feelings of those turbulent times when the euphoria of Kennedy’s America would come to its shocking end. Filled with compassion and insight, In the New World is both the intimate tale of one man’s coming-of-age, and a universal story of the American experience of two crucial decades.
spending for the arts by 500 percent. He eliminated taxes for low-income families and raised the minimum wage. He quintupled the enrollment in the jobs program. He created the Environmental Protection Agency. He brought civil rights to the North. He created the “Philadelphia Plan,” which required minority business participation in federal construction contracts. He initiated a parks program and a mass transit funding authority. He expanded school lunch programs, and health and safety regulations;
of the Eastern Establishment.” He intended to bury that Establishment in the coming election. I was a McGovern supporter in 1972; I even ran as a McGovern delegate in our Dallas precinct convention (the Wallacites swamped us); but I was never a McGovern enthusiast. Someone pointed out to me that McGovern had the same astrological sign as Calvin Coolidge—they were Cancers—and there did seem to be a psychic resemblance between them; they both had that sanctimonious air. What I remember most about
It seems wildly presumptuous that American college students would adopt this same mood as their own. We were the children of the liberators, we were free, we had every apparent reason to hope. And yet our minds were preoccupied by the prospect of atomic death, the central absurdity of our lives. It was a direct replacement for faith. In the days when I knelt beside my bed and said my prayers, I could call up a bearded image of God: he was the Old Testament, Sistine Chapel God, and he resided in a
measuring myself, as anyone who is twenty-one must do. Life until then had been all promise and possibility; now choices would have to be made. What did I want to be when I grew up? This was the river boundary I would have to cross into manhood. When I tried to summon the courage to declare myself a writer, I would remember the effrontery of that ambition, and I would well up with shame and resentment. I was nobody. I was empty inside. My life was no more than ordinary. I recalled the private
but even if it were not, my conscience had told me not to kill, and I would not. My conscience was all I had. To my astonishment, my application was quickly approved. When I got the news I slept for two days. It was like the exhaustion that comes after a final lovers’ quarrel. I was emotionally spent. I had two weeks to find alternative service—typically, two years in a low-paying public service job, in a place that was not within commuting distance of your home. Many hospital orderlies were