TILTING AT WINDMILLS: An Autobiography by Charles Peters


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A pungent, engaging, candid account of the life and times of the founder and editor of Washington Monthly, author of How Washington Really Works (1980). Born in Charleston, West Va., in 1926, Peters remembers of his childhood both the comfort of his boyhood home and the vicious racism of the day--a racism he early on determined to avoid, whether it be the widespread American anti-Semitism of the 30's or, later, the liberal distrust of business in the 80's. Peters recounts a stint as a Senate page in his home state, a spell as a young socialist, time in the army, snobbish college years at Columbia in the 40's--during which he encountered Norman Podhoretz (later his ideological foe) and was befriended by Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac. Work as a theatrical stage manager followed, then as an advertising exec, then three boring law-school years and labor for JFK's campaign (during which he won election to the West Va. House of Delegates); next came law practice and seven years with the Peace Corps. Peters has devoted his later years--and the latter portion of this book--to his Promethean efforts to establish and solidify the Washington Monthly, including his recruitment of a talented editorial board of friends like Bill Moyers and Russell Baker, the fostering of new writers, and dealing with financial difficulties. To Peters, the usual distinctions between journalist and intellectual, businessman and artist, liberal and military values are anathema; thus his adoption of the ""neoliberal"" label, a position he describes in the book's final section as he offers views on a multitude of American ways and woes. Peters observes that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was the movie that shaped ""the image of the life I wanted to lead and of the person I wanted to become."" Judging from his winsome, honest book, he's grown into the role of crusading reformer spectacularly well.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1988
Publisher: Addison-Wesley