Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Book Talk with Daniel Okrent

The Wolfsonian Museum-FIU. May 21st, 2010. 7:00 p.m.

altJoin author and former public editor of The New York Times Daniel Okrent for a  discussion of his latest book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, an exploration of the virtues, failures, and politics of Prohibition.

Beginning with the liquor-soaked country that the U.S. was in the 19th century, Okrent explains three things: how Prohibition happened, what life under Prohibition was like, and what it did to the country – both during its reign and after. The book is overflowing with detailed portraits of the period’s notable personalities (including Sam Bronfman, H.L. Mencken, Pierre du Pont, and Billy Sunday, among many others) and stories from nearly every part of the country: smoky Manhattan speakeasies, Californian vineyards busily producing “sacramental” wine, Chicago warehouses piled with smuggled Canadian whiskey, New England coastal towns that harbored bootlegging fleets of powerful speed boats armed with machine guns, and the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.

Okrent’s years of research – through dozens of archives and hundreds of primary sources – equipped him to reveal the creativity and lengths Americans took to preserve their great pastime, from exploiting medicinal and religious loopholes in the law to learning how to make their own (occasionally poisonous and often unpalatable) alcoholic beverages.  Few people know that Prohibition gave rise to our current use of mixers with liquor, the nature of our search and seizure laws, Caribbean tourism, the first national crime syndicates, and the prominence of Coca-Cola.  Furthermore, Okrent illustrates how Prohibition intersected with innumerable other elements of American history, including World War I, the advent of the income tax,  the growth of the Ku Klux Klan, the rights of women, and the question of individual privacy. 

Daniel Okrent was the first public editor of The New York Times, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life magazine. He worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking, and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace.  In 2009, Okrent served as the Edward R. Murrow Visiting Lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The author of four previous books, he lives in Manhattan and on Cape Cod with his wife, poet Rebecca Okrent. They have two children.

Wolfsonian Museum Teaching Gallery at the Frost Museum
10975 SW 17th Street
Miami, FL 33199

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