Wilson’s guest on Delmarva Today: Writer’s Edition is Jerry Sweeney author of the seven book series The Columbiad . Today Sweeney discusses the fifth book in the series, Comes the Electric Circus, a fictional memoir that takes place in the 1950s. On the surface, the 1950s was felt to be a bland time, a tepid time even. A sleepy little era quickly forgotten under the explosive upheaval of the 1960s. But for those who came of age in that era, there was also a sense of unease that manifested itself in a number of ways. The four major cultural revolutions that occurred in the 1960s; the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, and the antiwar movement all trace their seeds back to the 1950s. For example, women were urged to leave the workforce, retreat to the suburbs and assume, once again, a domestic role. Dissatisfaction was inevitable. As it grew, it found expression in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.
Segregation, a way of life embedded both legally and by custom primarily in the South was challenged in 1955 by a 42 year old black woman who refused to give up her seat on the Cleveland Avenue bus “white” section in Montgomery, Alabama. With her decision, Rosa Parks ignited the promising embers of racial justice that burst into the full flame of the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1954 the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu set the stage for the escalation of America’s unfortunate participation in the Vietnam conflict that gave way to the explosion of the anti-war movement.
And the sexual revolution with roots in the liberalizing impact of the Second World War, found expression in magazines like Playboy, and novels like Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Even the politically conservative Norman Vincent Peale in 1950 warned his readers about the dangers of sexual repression.
Jerry Sweeney brings forward this creative period as a character in itself as well as the setting of his fifth novel.