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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties » User review

Reads like a Sunday supplement

  • May 11, 2010
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This is not a serious history of the 1920s. In fact, it really isn't much of a history at all - more like a collection of vignettes. Much to her credit, the author acknowledges up front that the book is a "subjective survey of the principal events and characters of the times". The result is an uneven pastiche which is often inaccurate, incomplete and not infrequently colored by pedestrian political views which would merit no place in a true history.

Author Lucy Moore chooses icons like mobster Al Capone, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and wife Zelda, rich eccentric expatriates Caresse and Harry Crosby, boxer Jack Dempsey, anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti and other once familiar figures to illustrate the era. There are no footnotes. No citations to sources. Just a bibliography. And, surprisingly, there are way too few photographs.

Moore clearly lacks mastery of her subject. And she brings a political viewpoint to issues where a real historian would not comment and would certainly not make misleading or incomplete comments. For example, Moore goes on at length about the actions taken against suspected Communists and anarchists in the late 1910s and early 1920s. While she is absolutely correct that the tactics employed were often reprehensible, illegal and unconstitutional, she fails to point out that the actions were undertaken at the direction of the Democrat President Woodrow Wilson. Yet, when describing the failings of Herbert Hoover, she reminds us many times that he was a Republican. This kind of sophistry has no place in even a "subjective survey".

Likewise, Moore trots out erroneous left-wing clich├ęs about the United States. She rails about those classified as "poor" by the government, but fails to point out that life was far better for the majority of Americans than it had been even thirty years before - and that it was a far cry from the Soviet Union where millions of newly enfranchised Americans had emigrated from and where millions were dying of starvation or worse. She dwells on animosity toward immigrants which, while common, was not as widespread or pernicious as she makes it sound. Remember, millions upon millions of people emigrated to the United States during this time and very few left. Most of us are the children or grandchildren of these people and have done well for it. Likewise, Moore exaggerates the Ku Klux Klan.

Her explanation of the causes of the stock market crash of 1929 include the obligatory left-wing charge of inequality of income, though Moore or anyone else would be hard pressed to find an authoritative and persuasive argument in favor of this view.

Overall, "Anything Goes" remains true to its author's description of it as being a "subjective survey of the principal events and characters of the times". It is not history. But it is a reasonably entertaining read, even if marred by many inaccuracies and politically tinged opinions.


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review by . July 07, 2010
This is a book that gives the casual reader a snapshot of the decade of the 1920s through chapters which dal with specific people or topics. I was amazed, and shocked, at the self-indulgent hedonism that prevailed during that time, although I think I should not have been, for its been very well covered by many books. It's just that, in and age where we are concerned with making ends meet and trying to feed our families and pay our taxes, reading about those insufferable people grates on the sensibilities. &nbs …
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Jerry Saperstein ()
Ranked #194
I am an e-discovery strategist, computer forensics specialist and testifying expert witness - and an avid reader.      Aside from technology books, I love thrillers, suspense, mystery, … more
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About this book


The term Roaring Twenties connotates an era of uninhibited excess, characterized by drinking, shameless flappers, jazz, and gangland wars. All of these aspects are covered in this enjoyable, if uneven, survey of the decade. Moore also convincingly asserts that this was a period of significant social and political change with long-term effects. Utilizing a topical approach, she offers interesting descriptions of the emergence of organized crime, the excesses of big business, the Harlem Renaissance, and the stirrings of civil rights activism. She provides many useful tidbits about personalities as varied as Al Capone and Marcus Garvey. As long as Moore stays with her descriptive narrative, her account moves along smoothly. Unfortunately, her efforts to analyze these trends and to link them to our current economic and political conditions don’t ring true and are often based upon unwarranted assumptions. Still, for general readers, this work provides an interesting and wide-ranging look at a tumultuous period. --Jay Freeman
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ISBN-10: 1590203135
ISBN-13: 978-1590203132
Author: Lucy Moore
Genre: History
Publisher: Overlook Hardcover
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"Reads like a Sunday supplement"
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