Books: A Hiss for Horatio Alger

NIXON AGONISTES, THE CRISIS OF THE SELF-MADE MAN by Garry Wills. 617 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $10.

It is too early to evaluate Richard Nixon's presidency. In this discursive, bewildering and occasionally brilliant exercise, Garry Wills, a classicist-turned-journalist, writes, instead, about the idea of Nixon and the idea of the nation that elected him.

Wills' Nixon is a metaphor for "an older, and in many ways noble, America, made up of much sacrifice and anger." Yet Nixon's ascension to power, says Wills, is precisely a measure of the nation's failure, the bankruptcy of the Horatio...

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