THE PAPERS OF ADLAI STEVENSON, Vol. VII: Continuing Education and the Unfinished Business of American Society, 1957-1961 by Adlai E. Stevenson

THE PAPERS OF ADLAI STEVENSON, Vol. VII: Continuing Education and the Unfinished Business of American Society, 1957-1961

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The imminent publication of John Bartlow Martin's unflattering portrait of Stevenson after 1952, Adlai Stevenson and the World (p. 834), adds interest, paradoxically, to the volumes of papers from these later years: was he as querulous, as irresolute, as Martin infers? Keeping in mind that the letters included--along with memos and public papers--are only those their recipients chose to release, and not always in toto, one finds him not more ineffectual than his nature and circumstances dictate. As before, there are fulsome epistles to his great patron and confidante Agnes Meyer, communiques of shorthand intimacy to Marietta Tree, exfoliations on foreign policy--interlarded with compliments--to Barbara Ward: unquestionably, Stevenson basked in the attention of women. During much of this period, however, he was on the sidelines (hence the long vacuous subtitle), practicing law in Chicago, representing clients and meeting dignitaries on foreign trips, receiving and sending endless congratulations. He exults at the success of an address, expresses pique at poor newspaper coverage, writes and talks with platitudinous regularity of ""building a better world."" In an interview with Khrushchev, it is the latter--cagily inquiring, ""Shall I vote for you again in the next election or not?""--whose presence of mind scores. But as soon as that next election looms and Stevenson becomes a draftable non-candidate, his mind clicks, his thoughts flow, his utterances tighten and sharpen--and an eloquent Jeffersonian address at the University of Virginia pitches him into the last, impossible race. Expressions of support ""touch my torpid old heart""; he adamantly defends, as ""honest"" and ""modest,"" his willingness-to-run and refusal-to-declare; and after the Los Angeles convention explodes for him and nominates Kennedy, pronounces himself ""content."" Yes, he ""Expected Sec State"" but the exchanges with Kennedy apropos the UN ambassadorship--which he assumed at book's end--do not show him wanting in purpose. Much, much effluvia here (that might have been adequately preserved in archives for scholars), but also considerable if selective evidence of Stevenson's continuing efficacy.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown