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In the authors' estimate, 18 distinct generations have peopled American history, from Puritan colonists down to Wall Street yuppies. In a trendy, detailed, convoluted chronicle, often as woolly as newspaper horoscopes, generations are labeled and described, e.g., the Silents (those born 1925-42) are other-directed and possess a sense of nonjudgmental fairness. The authors also posit four cyclically recurring personality types--Idealist, Reactive, Civic, Adaptive. Reactives, like George Washington, eagerly take risks in their 20s, but age into mellow pragmatists. Aided by charts and tables, ex-Capitol Hill aide Strauss and Howe, a contributing editor to American Spectator , conclude their reductive views with a crystal-ball chapter predicting generational cycles for the next 70 years. Author tour. (Mar.)

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