Books by Stanley Karnow

PARIS IN THE FIFTIES by Stanley Karnow
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Strong reporting and storytelling skills combine to make this remembrance of Paris past a fine read. A Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist, Karnow (Vietnam, A History, 1983, etc.) apprenticed as a writer in postwar Paris, working his way up through the local bureau of Henry Luce's magazine empire. His long dispatches were generally filed away or, if published, cut drastically. But Karnow kept his carbon copies; here he distills that 1,000 pages of reportage into a memoir that artfully blends carefully detailed immediacy with considered personal reflection. The first few chapters, in which Karnow describes struggling as a GI Bill student in Paris and his subsequent initiation into the character-filled milieu of the Paris-based foreign press, seem somewhat insubstantial; but they are really only the set-up for the series of incisive reports that follow. Once past the requisite recounting of encounters with celebrities (Audrey Hepburn dazzles, Ernest Hemingway disappoints), Karnow uncorks a string of impressively realized chapters devoted to a wide variety of topics. They include le monde (a.k.a. the world of Parisian fashionables) and also the demimonde of striptease artists, prostitutes, and criminals; the intellectual circles of ``the mandarins,'' and also the French passion for car racing; the gastronomic divinations of the gourmand Curnonsky, Christian Dior's reign over the fashion world, and the strange career of Jules-Henri Desfourneaux, known as Monsieur de Paris, the city's guillotine operator. All the while, Karnow travels much further into French cultural history than his title might suggest. He never fails to provide historical context; one of his best passages retraces Ho Chi Minh's sojourn in Paris in the late 'teens and early twenties, long before he bedeviled France as leader of the Vietminh. Even the most jaded Francophile will find much stimulation here—indeed, so will any fan of punchy prose and intelligent observation and reflection. Read full book review >
Released: April 10, 1989

First-rate history of American involvement in the Philippines, by the author of Vietnam: A History; Mao and China: From Revolution to Revolution; and Southeast Asia. As Cory Aquino nears completion of her third year as Marcos' successor, Karnow provides a historical perspective to America's long relationship with the Philippines, that sprawling archipelago of disparate languages and cultures. He offers a neat summation of the past 350 years of Philippine history—first under Spain, then the US: "Three centuries in a Catholic convent and fifty years in Hollywood." The US-Philippine saga began during McKinley's administration. McKinley himself couldn't find the islands on a map, but some Americans dreamt of acquiring the archipelago, and their dream held sway. Karnow tears the mask away from some of our more cherished misconceptions. For example, what our history books have always referred to as "the Philippine Insurrection" was in actuality "an unalloyed American conquest of territory," in which 200,000 Filipinos were killed. Karnow presents a balanced picture overall, stating that the American performance vis-†-vis the Philippines "was neither as brilliant as their publicists claimed nor as bleak as their critics contended." Our failure, in the author's eyes, was in neglecting to establish an effective and impartial administration—as did Britain in India (yet Americans are held in considerably more respect by Filipinos than are the English by Indians). Sweeping history—and companion to a forthcoming PBS series—that leaves no stone unturned, sacrificing neither historical detail nor personal intensity. Read full book review >