Publisher's Comments (cont.)
It was the year of the microchip, the birth-control pill, the space race, and the computer revolution; the rise of Pop art, free jazz, "sick comics," the New Journalism, and indie films; the emergence of Castro, Malcolm X, and personal superpower diplomacy; the beginnings of Motown, Happenings, and the Generation Gap-all bursting against the backdrop of the Cold War, the fallout-shelter craze, and the first American casualties of the war in Vietnam. It was a year when the shockwaves of the new ripped the seams of daily life, when humanity stepped into the cosmos and commandeered the conception of human life, when the world shrank but the knowledge needed to thrive in it expanded exponentially, when outsiders became insiders, when categories were blurred and taboos trampled, when we crossed into a "new frontier" that offered the twin prospects of infinite possibilities and instant annihilation-a frontier that we continue to explore exactly fifty years later, at an eerily similar turning point. In 1959: The Year Everything Changed, acclaimed Slate columnist Fred Kaplan vividly chronicles this vital, overlooked year that set the world as we know it in motion. Drawing on original research, including untapped archives and interviews with major figures of the time, Kaplan pieces together the vast, untold story of a civilization in flux-and paints vivid portraits of the men and women whose creative energies, ideas, and inventions paved the way for the new era. They include: Norman Mailer, musing on the hipster and the H-bomb while fusing journalism and literature in wildly new, influential ways; Lenny Bruce, remaking stand-up comedy by loosening the language and skewering politics and religion; Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman, shattering the structures of jazz; John Cassavetes, making a new kind of movie, with improvised dialogue, shot in the city streets, outside the Hollywood system; Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, insinuating black urban music into mainstream pop culture; Barney Rosset, the owner of Grove Press, suing the government's censors and toppling obscenity laws; Malcolm X and Medgar Evers, advancing new and militant paths to civil rights and racial politics; Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Allan Kaprow, blurring the boundaries between art and life; Jack Kilby, a self-described "tinkerer," inventing the microchip, which triggers the digital age; Margaret Sanger, a radical activist in her eighties, spurring renegade scientists to invent a "magic pill" that lets women control their reproductive processes and unleashes the sexual and feminist revolutions; and John F. Kennedy, the coalescing figure of the era, campaigning for president as a young outsider, keen to grapple with the "unknown opportunities and peril" of the coming "new frontier"-just as Barack Obama, an even unlikelier outsider, confronts the eve of a new decade in our own turbulent time.