April 2, 2004
Menand Does McCarthy
As usual, Louis Menand takes a topic I have no special interest in and makes it fascinating. The closing paragraph is really beautifully written:
The vortex of the late nineteen-sixties swallowed up not only Eugene McCarthy. It consumed a whole generation of liberal politicians and radical thinkers and culture heroes, from John Lindsay and Marshall McLuhan to Tom Hayden and Buckminster Fuller — a long list of “an idea whose time has come” types whose time abruptly ran out. The survivors wandered, as McCarthy did, through the decades that followed, caricatures of their former world-historical selves, like old heavyweight champions working as greeters in casinos. You could say that these people failed; but what would success have looked like? McCarthy was seized by the moment. He deliberately sacrificed his career to stand on ground that no other Democrat had the courage to venture out on. He was entitled, in the decades that followed, to a little resentment.