The surprises begin right away in “Nixonland.” The book opens with the Watts riots, a singularly unconventional starting point for a narrative built around Richard M. Nixon, who was not in office and not involved with the 1965 events or their aftermath. But these passages in Rick Perlstein’s rambunctious, ambitious, energetic tour through the Nixon era set both the tone and approach that distinguish this remarkable work.
As the initial setting makes clear, Perlstein is after something other than biography here. And wisely so. The world almost certainly has enough Nixon biographies; few subjects have tantalized writers more than the troubled soul of Yorba Linda’s favorite son. Instead, he tells the story of Nixon’s America, a country of division and resentment, jealousy and anger, one where politics is brutal and psychological, where victors make the vanquished suffer. Perlstein, who covered some of this ground in “Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus,” aims here at nothing less than weaving a tapestry of social upheaval. His success is dazzling.
more from the LA Times here.