The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Book Reviews

and do what she was interested in-that her years in the White House should
be a "journey of the heart." Paul Boiler's book helps us to understand each first
lady, and how she uniquely shaped her journey as first lady in the enduring
context of genuine love for her husband and a common desire to help in meet-
ing the uncommon demands of the presidency.
Washington, D.C. NANCY KEGAN SMITH
Let the Good Times Roll: Life at Home zn America During World War II. By Paul D.
Casdorph. (New York: Paragon House, 1989. Pp. x+276. Preface, index,
photos. $21.95.)
If you have ever wished to comb through files of Newsweek and Tzme from
December 1941 until August 1945, this is the book for you. Paul Casdorph ap-
proaches the over 3'/, years of U.S. direct involvement in World War II with the
fresh and wondering eye of someone born in 1932. His approach is strenuously
chronological, his canvas wide (see chapter lo, "August-December 1944: Bal-
lots and Baseball"). Sports, civil rights, films and popular songs, the Pacific war
and the European theater, Hollywood scandals, rationing, the atom bomb,
women in the work force, presidential elections-all jostle one another in
faithful reflection of unstructured reality.
Such an "I-am-a-camera" approach requires great accuracy, a good ear, and
some selectivity. Neither Mr. Casdorph nor his publisher earns high marks on
the accuracy front: for example, Irving Berlin wrote "Oh, How I Hate to Get
Up In the Morning" during World War I, not II (p 36). The good ear test is
also a problem: H. V. Kaltenborn was never referred to as "Hans V. Kalten-
born" (pp. 23, 8o). John D. Rockefeller is barely recognizable as "John Davison
Rockefeller" (p. 138). It puts one's teeth on edge to have Othello billed as "the
celebrated Shakespearean play" (p. 32).
A major problem with this genial account, however, is its lack of selectivity.
When data are abundant, the trivial tends to overwhelm the important. The
historian's task is to arbitrate, not to wallow. Tl'his Paul Casdorph resolutely re-
fuses to do, except in a few instances. (Discussion of civil rights, though inevita-
bly disjointed because of his chronological approach, is thoughtful and ger-
mane.) More often, Casdorph switches from one topic to another across an
awkward bridge: "That a president had worked himself into a premature grave
and that thousands of GIs were dying in the far Pacific did not keep the coun-
try's golfers from the 1944-1945 professional tour" (p. 234).
To make sense of all this, a clearer explanation of how the "Good Times"
came about would have been helpful. Missing is much discussion of the bed-
rock fact that, during World War II, U.S. GNP overall ran well ahead of de-
fense expenditures. Increased military outlays virtually washed out unemploy-
ment (14 percent in 1939). This meant that, despite gas rationing and other
restrictions, the average level of U.S. consumption rose during the war, espe-
cially for those in lower income groups.

291

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed July 22, 2014.