A National Book Award–winning historian takes an in-depth look at the 20th-century’s most innovative publishing titan.
The son of a Presbyterian missionary, Henry R. Luce (1898–1967) grew up in China. Eager for distinction as a scholarship student at Hotchkiss and Yale, Luce, along with classmate Brit Hadden, founded Time in 1923. This invention of a weekly news magazine designed to inform people about an increasingly complex world started a publishing empire that eventually included the popular pioneer of photojournalism, Life, along with Fortune and Sports Illustrated. With ventures into book publishing, radio and newsreels, Luce consistently demonstrated an almost unerring instinct for connecting with the public. Amassing great wealth while notoriously imposing a distinct editorial slant on all his publications, he championed American exceptionalism, warned against the dangers of isolationism and ardently promoted the virtues of capitalism. In graceful prose, Brinkley (History/Columbia Univ.; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2009, etc.) tells especially interesting stories about Luce’s curious relationship with Hadden, his difficult dealings with star writers Whittaker Chambers and Theodore White, his uncharacteristically high-profile involvement in the Willkie campaign and his odd attraction to the Kennedy candidacy. A stout cold warrior, Luce spent the last decades of his life constantly traveling, attempting to exert hands-on control over his vast domain and negotiating a tumultuous second marriage with the difficult and glamorous Clare Boothe Luce. Brinkley portrays Luce as ferociously ambitious, endlessly curious, fundamentally restless, virtually friendless and, by his death, deeply unhappy. Notwithstanding the publisher’s heroic efforts to shape his times, Brinkley correctly identifies Luce’s real achievement: the publications he created, “reflections of the middle class world” of a nation that had reached unprecedented heights of power and influence.
A thoroughly researched, nuanced appreciation of a complex, talented and troubled man.