They stand at the apex of the great age of songwriting, the creators of the classic Broadway musicals Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, whose songs have never lost their popularity or emotional power. Even before they joined forces, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had written dozens of Broadway shows, but together they pioneered a new art form: the serious musical play. Their songs and dance numbers served to advance the drama and reveal character, a sharp break from the past and the template on which all future musicals would be built.
Though different in personality and often emotionally distant from each other, Rodgers and Hammerstein presented an unbroken front to the world and forged much more than a songwriting team; their partnership was also one of the most profitable and powerful entertainment businesses of their era. They were cultural powerhouses whose work came to define postwar America on stage, screen, television, and radio. But they also had their failures and flops, and more than once they feared they had lost their touch.
Todd S. Purdum’s portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations will captivate lovers of musical theater, lovers of the classic American songbook, and young lovers wherever they are. He shows that what Rodgers and Hammerstein wrought was truly something wonderful.
It was a turbulent time in America—a time of sit-ins, freedom rides, a March on Washington and a governor standing in the schoolhouse door—when John F. Kennedy sent Congress a bill to bar racial discrimination in employment, education, and public accommodations. Countless civil rights measures had died on Capitol Hill in the past. But this one was different because, as one influential senator put it, it was "an idea whose time has come."
In a powerful narrative layered with revealing detail, Todd S. Purdum tells the story of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, recreating the legislative maneuvering and the larger-than-life characters who made its passage possible. From the Kennedy brothers to Lyndon Johnson, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Hubert Humphrey and Everett Dirksen, Purdum shows how these all-too-human figures managed, in just over a year, to create a bill that prompted the longest filibuster in the history of the U.S. Senate yet was ultimately adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support. He evokes the high purpose and low dealings that marked the creation of this monumental law, drawing on extensive archival research and dozens of new interviews that bring to life this signal achievement in American history.
Often hailed as the most important law of the past century, the Civil Rights Act stands as a lesson for our own troubled times about what is possible when patience, bipartisanship, and decency rule the day.
It was a war like no other the United States had ever fought. It began with the bombing of Saddam Hussein's bunker and ended with statues of the Iraqi dictator being toppled in downtown Baghdad, and it marked a turning point in America's relations with its enemies, its allies, and its sense of itself. Yet most Americans experienced the war as impressionistic and often confusing—the story of one battle here, one unit there, a report from one city, then another, without the larger context we so urgently needed. Each reporter had his "slice" of the war, it seemed, but no one had the whole story or the broad view.
A Time of Our Choosing fills that gap brilliantly, drawing on the unparalleled resources and reportage of The New York Times. Todd S. Purdum, one of the paper's most gifted storytellers, traces the war in Iraq from the first rumblings after 9/11, to the diplomatic recriminations at the United Nations, to the battles themselves and their aftermath. He deftly rolls out the whole canvas before our eyes, showing how the individual "slices" fit together into a single, gripping drama.
Purdum also explores the complex legacy of America's near-unilateral action. Since the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush has vowed that the United States would confront its enemies "at a time of our choosing," and Purdum shows in vivid terms what this choice has meant for our now transformed world.