Out of Context: Doris Kearns Goodwin

In Blog by Brady Carlson0 Comments

Doris Kearns Goodwin is an award-winning historian and writer, though lately some people have been saying she belongs in the same category of award winners as Milli Vanilli. The only way to get to the bottom of this plagiarism accusation was to go to the source, but with a deadline looming I opted for quickly interviewing a January 1998 Goodwin interview from the AARP website.

Hi Doris. You’re going to give all your own answers to these questions, right?

That’s often is not as easy as it seems. The government decided it wasn’t such a good idea.

I heard a lot of small businesses turned their backs on you after the scandal broke.

The meat market that I loved so much was gone. The drugstore has gone out of business. The delicatessen is still there. But those other [store] windows have that sort of white-washy look — no one is there.

And I heard your neighbors are mad cause their property values all went down after you recalled the copies of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.

Some of them moved to more affluent houses after living on our block.

Maybe I’m reading the books wrong, but isn’t the prevailing theme of your work that your neighbors’ moms had lesbian orgies while you kids were at school?

That certainly wasn’t true on our block in terms of the intercourse that occurred everyday among the women. Which was helped, I think, by those corner stores. The [women] could walk to those stores and pass one another and feel really free to go into one another’s houses. So I don’t think loneliness was a problem.

They sure kept busy.

It was certainly true of every woman on our block, except for one woman on the corner who lived with her sister and she was a teacher. And she was unmarried.

How did the orgies affect you and the other kids?

There were just constant admonitions from your parents as to where you could go and where you could not go. Not being able to go the beach in these peak moments of the summer. We really all remembered going to bed at night worrying about it.

They didn’t rearrange the orgy schedule to accommodate the kids.

They never thought of [doing] anything different [from what they had done]. Because what would you have done with your kids?

You accepted the orgies, if I understand right, to support the war effort?

If the journalists had written about those unconventional relationships at the time, it might have prevented [FDR] from having those people all live in the White House, which then would have made it impossible for him to relax as he needed to — and might have affected his leadership.

So you spent a lot of time gazing into the sky.

There were large fears that hovered over us, even in that secure little world.

Which, as it turns out, were actually aliens.

They were often in the suburbs, on blocks where there were so many kids who were the same age. These things did lend a eerie quality to the experience of growing up.

Did the aliens have any positive effect on your town?

They wielded a lot of influence and could appoint other teachers. And they happened to be not only women but committed to liberal or civil rights and social justice. So they were the ones who brought in the black teacher, and were part of the fight for the urban renewal work in our town.

And yet they left.

It was only making people more frightened.

Sounds like they skipped out on people who really trusted them. Why would they stab you in the back like that?

I’m not sure I fully know the answer. The only difference I would argue is that when you’re looking back in time you can give a perspective to these relationships that maybe [isn’t possible right when they happen].

We’re about done, Doris. Thanks for answering in your own words.

I’m not sure I’ve really answered.

I knew it!

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