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At Sea in the Sixties

by James Rosen

All Falling Faiths: Reflections on the Promise and Failure of the 1960s, by J. Harvie Wilkinson III (Encounter, 208 pp., $23.99)

‘I have gambled in making this a personal tale,” observes J. Harvie Wilkinson III at the outset of his new book. Yet the exact wager placed in this literary gamble, its attendant odds and stakes, are never fully articulated in this heartfelt, often touching reflection by a renowned federal appellate-court judge raised in post-war Richmond, Va. Unfortunately, only by understanding the mechanics of Wilkinson’s gamble can we evaluate his argument — judge the judge, as it were.

The author does allow that because he is a “white, Protestant, southern, and distinctly privileged male,” he is “perhaps the very last person who should be writing personally about the Sixties.” Like a canny trial lawyer looking to get the Bad Stuff out there in the most flattering light before opposing counsel starts in on it, the judge comes clean: “I acknowledge the limitations of my own perspective and experience.”

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