The 100

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by Vin Suprynowicz

The Time/CBS News “People of the Century” volume has just landed on my desk. (Subtitle: “One Hundred Men and Women Who shaped the Last Hundred Years.”)

I am neither surprised nor do I object to finding therein Franklin Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, Mao Tse-Tung, or even (I suppose) Ho Chi Minh.

(But Che Guevara? Mikhail Gorbachev? They make the list, while Josef Stalin fades into obscurity? What is this, really? A list of people who appeared in posters on New England dorm room walls in the 1960s?)

Nor is it surprising — though it is somewhat silly — that this book, compiled on Sixth Avenue in New York, would be so Americentric, and so “popular culture” oriented, as to include “The Kennedy clan,” Marlon Brando, Pete Rozelle (!), Marilyn Monroe, Harvey Milk (!), Jim Henson (!), Aretha Franklin, Oprah Winfrey (!), Diana Princess of Wales (!), and Bart Simspon.

I know, I know: Such lists are compiled as much to spur debate and discussion as anything else. At least they omitted Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. And digging up obscure Argentine novelists to demonstrate one’s erudition is hardly the point.

I’m not writing to ask why Aretha Franklin stands in for real musical genii from Scott Joplin and George Gershwin through Chuck Berry, or whether many a film pioneer from Edison to D.W. Griffith to John Ford to Herman Mankiewicz — or even Elia Kazan — might not have had more to do with the development of the 20th century’s great new art form than Marilyn Monroe. Nor, I suppose, is there any point in arguing that among the men and women who “shaped the 20th century” could well be a number who died before1990, from Washington and Jefferson to Karl Marx to Johannes Gutenberg. The limitation is implied.

I was just wondering whether anyone else found anything odd about the following list:

Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, George Patton, James J. Hill, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, John Moses Browning, H.L. Mencken, Louis Brandeis, Milton Friedman, Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert A. Taft, Douglas, MacArthur, Clarence Darrow, Edward R. Murrow, Henry Miller, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Alexander Fleming, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Heinlein, George Marshall, Ernest Hemingway, Igor Sikorsky, George Bernard Shaw, Werner von Braun, Erwin Rommel, Isoroku Yamamoto, T.E. Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence, Frank Herbert…

Oh well. Needless to say, these people are NOT among the “One Hundred Men and Women Who shaped the Last Hundred Years,” while Lucille Ball and Eleanor Roosevelt and Estee Laude and Pele the soccer player … are.

A slightly silly book, I fear. Though I suppose they deserve credit for Ray Kroc, Philo Farnsworth, Sam Walton, Margaret Thatcher, and Bill Gates.

The essay on the Beatles is all “pop” liner notes about Ed Sullivan and the breakup, with no useful analysis of the black American blues root music which Lennon & McCartney and Jagger & Richards (also missing) had studied so devoutly, and did a far better job of “bringing home” to America than the crew-cut, white-suede-shoe Pat Boone crowd.

Speaking of which, where’s … Dick Clark?

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