Minerva, 1889 – 1890, Roman goddess of poetry, music, wisdom, and warriors (Greek, Athena), bronze sculpture by Norwegian American artist, Jakob H. F. Fjelde, downtown Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
The first black hole was discovered in the same decade that Star Wars was released (and not by Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, or Sonny and Cher). It was the 1970’s, and you were probably wearing Halston ultrasuede or cashmere, leisure suits, platform shoes, string bikinis, and hot pants. Or maybe you were more the Birkenstock type, sporting tie-dye jeans, crocheted vests (think orange and lime green), and bouncy, wide bell-bottoms.
In 1977, there was a world shortage of coffee and prices soared from 50¢ a pound to $3.20 (isn’t it around $12 a pound today?). You might have been playing a lightshow guitar (imitating Pink Floyd), or listening to the Stones, Roberta Flack, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Tony Orlando (knock 3 times), or Gladys Knight and the Pips, on your new Sony Walkman.
The Beatles broke up, Jack Nicholson flew over the cuckoo’s nest, Harold and Maud were the May/December romance of the big screen, playing next to The Deer Hunter, Deliverance, and Saturday Night Fever. Yes, John Travolta was hot (even before his Pulp Fiction days). So was Billie Jean King, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, and Jesus Christ Superstar (did you see Andrew Lloyd Webber on American Idol?).
If you are under 21 and voted during the 2008 Presidential Primary, you can thank the 1970’s — the voting age in the U.S. was lowered to 18. And Paper Mate introduced a new erasable ink pen, allowing you to wipe out those pesky voting mistakes in a single swipe.
But don’t jump too fast. It was before the age of the hanging chad. The Apple II computer had just hit the market, the first email took a lumbering ride across ARPANet (central backbone during the development of the Internet), and Intel’s first microprocessor 4004 (1971) contained 2,300 transistors (today’s will run 3,000 times faster).
In the 1970’s Annie Hall was all the rage, along with Club Med, the VCR, streaking (yes, I tried it), and Pet Rocks (move over Sony the Pug!). Patty Hearst wielded her first machine gun, Son of Sam ran loose in the streets, Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, murdered 1-2 million people, and the Ohio National Guard shot and killed 4 college students at Kent State during an anti-war demonstration. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?
In the Me Decade, Elvis died of an overdose. So did Sid Vicious and Jim Morrison. Life and Look magazines were defunct by the end of the decade, along with cigarette advertising on TV, the draft, the VW bug (so they thought), and the Vietnam War. There was a recession in 1974 on top of an oil crisis in 1973 (what’s changed?). And TV would never be the same: Bonanza ended after 14 years; Gunsmoke after 20; and Ed Sullivan called it quits after 23 years.
You don’t see that kind of longevity in 21st Century media. Nor would you ever see televised daily proceedings of a national debacle like Richard Nixon and Watergate.
The world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in England, CAT-scans were introduced, the Heimlich maneuver perfected, and popular 70’s culture was buzzing with new words and phrases: Murphy’s Law, Pro-choice, pumping iron, Punk rock, Rubik’s cube. Don’t rock the boat!
Money, money, money — 180,000 Americans were millionaires by the mid-70’s, an average hospital stay would set you back $81 a day, and a First Class postage stamp was 6¢ (Airmail, 10¢). The Metropolitan Museum paid $5.5 million for a Diego Velázquez portrait, while the Susan B. Anthony dollar took a political nosedive.
Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post in the 70’s, and Cosmopolitan blossomed with Helen Gurley Brown at the helm. But literature (and a few oddball tomes thrown in for good measure) still boomed under the watchful eye of Minerva, Roman goddess of poetry and wisdom.
You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read. You can also tell a lot about a culture. In the 1970’s, here’s what America was reading.
1 9 7 0 ‘ s – B E S T S E L L E R S
- Love Story; Oliver’s Story, Erich Segal
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
- Islands in the Stream, Ernest Hemingway
- Travels with My Aunt, Graham Greene
- Rich Man, Poor Man, Irwin Shaw
- Wheels; Overload, Arthur Hailey
- The Exorcist, William P. Blatty
- The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
- Message from Malaga, Helen MacInnes
- Rabbit Redux, John Updike
- The Betsy, Harold Robbins
- The Winds of War, Herman Wouk
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull; Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach
- The Odessa File, Frederick Forsyth
- My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
- Captains and the Kings, Taylor Caldwell
- Once Is Not Enough; Delores, Jacqueline Susann
- Breakfast of Champions; Jailbird; Slapstick: or, Lonesome No More!, Kurt Vonnegut
- Burr; 1876, Gore Vidal
- The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
- Evening in Byzantium, Irwin Shaw
- The Drifters; Centennial; Chesapeake, James A. Michener
- The Matlock Paper, Robert Ludlum
- The Billion Dollar Sure Thing, Paul E. Erdman
- Watership Down, Richard Adams
- Jaws; The Deep, Peter Benchley
- The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth
- The Fan Club, Irving Wallace
- I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Margaret Craven
- Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow
- The Moneychangers, Arthur Hailey
- Curtain; Sleeping Murder, Agatha Christie
- Looking for Mister Goodbar, Judith Rossner
- The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh
- The Eagle Has Landed, Jack Higgins
- The Greek Treasure: A Biographical Novel of Henry and Sophia Schliemann, Irving Stone
- The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton
- Shogun, James Clavell
- Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow
- Trinity, Leon Uris
- A Stranger in the Mirror, Bloodlines, Sidney Sheldon
- The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien; Christopher Tolkien
- The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
- How To Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong
- Delta of Venus: Erotica, Anaïs Nin
- War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk
- Fools Die, Mario Puzo
- Scruples, Judith Krantz
- Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
- The Dead Zone, Stephen King
- The Third World War: August 1985, Gen. Sir John Hackett, et al.
- Smiley’s People, John Le Carré
1 9 7 0 ‘ s – B E S T S E L L E R S
- Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex but Were Afraid To Ask, David Reuben, M.D.
- The New English Bible
- The Sensuous Woman, “J”
- Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking; Better Homes and Gardens Blender Cook Book; Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook
- American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, William Morris
- Body Language, Julius Fast
- In Someone’s Shadow; Caught in the Quiet, Rod McKuen
- The Sensous Man, “M”
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
- I’m O.K., You’re O.K., Thomas Harris
- Any Woman Can!, David Reuben, M.D.
- Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer
- Eleanor and Franklin, Joseph P. Lash
- Wunnerful, Wunnerful!, Lawrence Welk
- Honor Thy Father, Gay Talese
- Fields of Wonder, Rod McKuen
- The Living Bible, Kenneth Taylor
- Open Marriage, Nena and George O’Neill
- Harry S. Truman, Margaret Truman
- Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, Robert C. Atkins
- The Peter Prescription, Laurence J. Peter
- A World Beyond, Ruth Montgomery
- Journey to Ixtlan; Tales of Power; The Second Ring of Power, Carlos Castaneda
- The Joy of Sex; More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort
- Weight Watchers Program Cookbook, Jean Nidetch
- How To Be Your Own Best Friend, Mildred Newman, et al.
- The Art of Walt Disney, Christopher Finch
- Alistair Cooke’s America, Alistair Cooke
- Sybil, Flora R. Schreiber
- The Total Woman, Marabel Morgan
- All the President’s Men; The Final Days, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
- You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis, Harry Browne
- All Things Bright and Beautiful; All Things Wise and Wonderful, James Herriot
- The Bermuda Triangle, Charles Berlitz with J. Manson Valentine
- Angels: God’s Secret Agents, Billy Graham
- Winning Through Intimidation; Looking Out for #1; Restoring the American Dream, Robert Ringer
- TM: Discovering Energy and Overcoming Stress, Harold H. Bloomfield
- Sylvia Porter’s Money Book, Sylvia Porter
- Total Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week, Laurence E. Morehouse and Leonard Gross
- Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon, Theodore H. White
- Roots, Alex Haley
- Your Erroneous Zones; Pulling Your Own Strings, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
- Passages: The Predictable Crises of Adult Life, Gail Sheehy
- The Grass ls Always Greener over the Septic Tank; If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries–What Am I Doing in the Pits?; Aunt Erma’s Cope Book, Erma Bombeck
- Blind Ambition: The White House Years, John Dean
- The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, Shere Hite
- The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate, Leon Jaworski
- The Book of Lists, David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace
- The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, Carl Sagan
- The Amityville Horror, Jay Anson
- Gnomes, Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet
- The Complete Book of Running, James Fixx
- Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford
- RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon
- Faeries, Brian Froud and Alan Lee
- The Muppet Show Book, the Muppet People
- The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet, Herman Tarnower, M.D., and Samm Sinclair Baker
- The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise, Nathan Pritikin and Patrick McGrady Jr.
- White House Years, Henry Kissinger
- Lauren Bacall By Myself, Lauren Bacall
- The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court, Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong
-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, April 24th, 2008