NPJ Book Review: Smiling through the Apocalypse; Esquire’s History of the Sixties, Ed. Harold Hayes


Smiling through the Apocalypse; Esquire’s History of the Sixties, edited by Harold Hayes (1970) This thick, intellectually stimulating and humorous volume is a compilation of writings by prominent authors of the period from Norman Mailer, Tom Wicker, Gore Vidal, Terry Southern, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., James Deakin, Edward Jay Epstein, William Styron, Tom Wolfe, Timothy Leary, James Baldwin, Gay Talese, Garry Wills, Jean Genet, Thomas B. Morgan, Saul Bellow and many others.

I found this work to be a creative, raw, blatant, ambiguous, provocative, stark and revealing anthology. The elegance of it lay in how words were used and causes me to reflect on how we use words today. This volume is a delight in the use of the English language and the authors have a deep appreciation of how a word or words can affect human behavior and attitude. From the Kennedy and King assassinations to poverty, drugs, Vietnam and much more, this is an example how periods of conflict in all spheres of life can produce thoughtful insights into and expressions of agony and amusement.

Meanwhile an opportunity for creative expression has presented itself. The Union of Concerned Scientists  through the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board  has issued this warning: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.” The cause for the 30 second move toward midnight from the previous 3 minutes is the impact of the Trump presidency. This is the closest to midnight since 1953 when the Doomsday Clock was 2 minutes to midnight. (USSR and USA tested hydrogen bombs that year)