With only half his life's journey spanned, veteran journalist, author, and editor Salisbury (b. 1908) has written a vast,...



With only half his life's journey spanned, veteran journalist, author, and editor Salisbury (b. 1908) has written a vast, crowded book, churning with unsettled emotions and unanswered questions: the story of a Minnesotan reborn in Russia; a ""scoop artist"" who never gives up; a lifelong Republican and inherent rebel. The great man of out times, for Salisbury, is Solzhenitsyn. The story begins at 107 Royalston Avenue in Minneapolis -- in a ""Jewish ghetto."" Father is reticent, diligent, a skeptic yet uncomplaining, acceptant; mother is volatile, willful, eruptive -- the pursuer of an imagined family fortune and ""a frustrated lady writer."" From the Russian Jewish ÉmigrÉ father of a friend, nine-year-old Harrison hears of Lenin and Trotsky -- and receives a Russian-style glass of forbidden tea. (In one of the book's last scenes, S. is at the Solzhenitsyns' Vermont compound -- a recreation of 19th-century Russia.) Skipping two grades in school, he misses out on grammar and punctuation -- but learns to type 60-70 words a minute; underage in high school, he misses out on the socializing -- but discovers the Minnesota wilds. The cocky editor of the U. of Minnesota paper, he's expelled for flouting a petty regulation -- in retrospect, ""the favor of my lire."" So begins Salisbury's years with UP: in Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, New York, London, and ultimately Moscow. The account is peopled with the likes of the young, ""able, vigorous"" Harold Stassen -- ""the first of a succession of Minnesota political disappointments""; Al Capone, in the dock -- with ""eyes like bullets""; Huey Long in his coffin; press-manipulating FDR and gadfly-editor Arnold Gingrich. Also, in beautiful, blacked-out Britain, the exhilirating ""band of brothers of the left"" (Jennie Lee, Frank Owen, Michael Foot) and in grim 1952 Moscow, wise, romantic George Kennan. Salisbury marries unwisely -- setting in train ""a savage wrecking of lives."" He feuds, unwisely too, with UP boss Frank Baillie. Fingered as a German spy by an unbalanced neighbor, he acquires (as he will later learn) a tenacious FBI record. Postwar and into the Khrushchev era, covering Russia for the New York Times, he incurs the suspicions of Times editors for his dovish dispatches during the Korean War and (he believes) becomes the target of a Russian murder plot. Repeatedly: ""I had reported an important but unpalatable truth."" Disorderly and perhaps overstuffed -- but with intriguing detail, vigorous opinion, myriad disclosures, and the flux of life.

Pub Date: May 31, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983