Rick Perlstein & Sean Wilentz: Face-off over Nixon and Reagan (exchange)





[Sean Wilentz is the author of The Age Of Reagan and contributing editor for The New Republic. Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland.]

From: Sean Wilentz

To: Rick Perlstein

Dear Rick,

Congratulations on your fat and sassy new book. Because you thoughtfully sent me a galley, I got to have an advance look--and have been going through it again with renewed pleasure. I'm particularly taken with how the book interweaves events: always with the problematic serial resenter Richard Nixon at the center, but with much more than Nixon moving in and out of the frame. The book helps brings coherence to a chaotic and splenetic time.

I suppose, though, since it's you and I talking here, that we should start off considering the book's major hook, or at least the one that present-minded editors and reviewers keep bringing up. (It's not enough to be a historian--we have to be relevant, too, right? A conceit from the '60s that hasn't died. But I digress.)

Are we still living in Nixonland? Or are the decades after Watergate better thought of as what I've called it, The Age of Reagan? And whether it's Nixon or Reagan, are we still entrapped by the politics that emerged out of the '60s, or are those politics dying?..



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