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Tag Archives: Alternate History

In A Different Instant…

Consider deadlock on civil rights in 1964, followed by no further U.S. involvement in Vietnam after 1965. Suppose the vice president had been forced from office well before the next election, triggering the selection of his replacement.  And think about the first lady’s calculated next move after eight years in the White House.

If Kennedy LivedExactly fifty years since the assassination of President Kennedy, today marks not only a fitting remembrance of what was, but also a fascinating exploration of what might have been.  Aiding in this rich intellectual journey, author Jeff Greenfield has done it again, presenting us with his newest and well-timed work of alternate history, “If Kennedy Lived.”

It all comes down to one meteorological circumstance which ultimately changes everything, from split-second reactions to long-term policy decisions and every ironic turn of fate along the way. All the while, readers are invited via Mr. Greenfield’s plausible scenarios to ponder one alternative evolution of 1960s history, including the momentum of the growing counterculture and the administration’s tactics to quell certain scandal.  The ironies abound, including chuckle-inducing quotes from private citizen Richard Nixon and a young Al Gore, Jr., among numerous other key players who either emerge or disappear as alternate developments dictate.

Fifty years ago today the world changed in an instant.  Imagine, at least for this quick yet captivating read, if that instant had produced a different result, well beyond the immediate events of November 22, 1963.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Books, Famous People, Presidential

 

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Yes, But… What If?

For better or not-so-better, any moment in political history occurs just once, without a retake, yielding an indelible result.  Still, it’s often fascinating to consider alternate outcomes– both immediate and long-term– especially with the help of a deeply insightful book on the subject.

Suppose President-elect John F. Kennedy had been killed before his inauguration, as truly came close to happening one December morning.  Say the gunman in the Ambassador Hotel on that June night had been tackled before hitting his target, allowing Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign to proceed.  And even without an act of violence or death, consider how words alone could have gotten President Gerald Ford elected in his own right– and from there, who would have succeeded him.

Historians, academicians and philosophers often like to ponder the age-old question, “What if?” And for the rest of us who like to ask it as well, reporter/author Jeff Greenfield presents a captivating 400 pages to feed such an appetite, adding to numerous works of alternate history while showcasing an extensive and unique cast of characters.  As fact launches into fiction, we the readers are invited to contemplate, through good and bad, how history might have been written.  The entire “if, then” logic structure rings loudly, hypothetically enough.  Let’s just say the film in my last post clearly would not have been made!

“Then Everything Changed” proves a fascinating and reflective read for anyone who appreciates how it really was, while craving a glimpse into how it could have occurred.  “It” is far more than merely who holds office; the everyday media and social divergences are intertwined.   I’m thrilled to have picked up this two-year-old book, in the end leaving me satisfied that some pieces of history happened as they did– while wishing others might have turned out differently.  Ironically enough, some very memorable events that defined our reality still took place in Mr. Greenfield’s alternative scenario, just at different times among other players.  Such compelling instances simply strike nerves with all the more impact on the reality vs. fantasy balance.  And of course, in scenarios both real and imagined, Bugs Bunny always does beat Daffy Duck.

Ultimately, from tragedy, loss and failure to peace, victory and opportunity, with all that might have happened and the rest that never did, “Then Everything Changed” concludes with a final paragraph demonstrating the mark of a thoughtful and well-balanced author.  That is, I laughed out loud.  I bet you will too!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Books, Famous People, History, Politics, Presidential, Reviews

 

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