AMERICA INSIDE OUT by David Schoenbrun

AMERICA INSIDE OUT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Millions of Americans recall Schoenburn as chief of the CBS Paris bureau in the years of CBS primacy and French postwar renewal--but just as he accepted reassignment to Washington in 1961, for a broader, American purview, so he has chosen to write his memoirs as a ""journey through fifty years of the American experience from Roosevelt to Reagan."" The Roosevelt-to-Reagan, New Deal to anti-New Deal framing has another apparent basis, even more deeply personal: ""The day [in 1933] I. . . suddenly saw my father, in a worn overcoat, shivering in the cold wind, standing in a soup-kitchen line, was the blackest day in my life."" (And, Schoenbrun adds, some today would call his father a welfare cheat--for he had a meager job, inadequate to feed his family.) But because the book doesn't follow the shape of Schoenbrun's career, and instead packs in capsule-history (especially at the beginning and end), because its attempt at an overview is also at odds with Schoenbrun's close involvement in particular events, it is much less satisfactory than it might have been. Yet the findings, for the willing reader, are well worth extra trouble. First there is Schoenbrun himself: a rare combination, in a reporter, of skeptic and idealist. As a college volunteer-for-Roosevelt, he asked FDR how he could consort with Jersey City's ""crooked political boss"" Hague--and still recoils at the ""cynical,"" pragmatic answer (to-get-elected). There is Schoenbrun's route from N.Y.C. French teacher to CBS man-about-Paris: via short-wave monitoring and propaganda-exposÉs in the '30s, the OWI (not the OSS--because, he told Donovan, ""I'm talkative and argumentative""), the worst and best of the Army, the North African imbroglio, the invasion of the South of France, the liberation of Paris, the push to the Rhine, the entrance into Buchenwald (all, with an Eisenhower open sesame), and, immediately post-war, setting-up shop for the small Overseas News Agency in Paris. . . while waiting for a call from Ed Murrow. Then there are the sensational tales, peeks at the mighty, and professional triumphs special to top-flight correspondents--including Schoenbrun's reluctant, covert involvement in getting American aid for the French in Vietnam (where, from early acquaintance with Ho, he never expected France or the US to prevail). In Washington, Schoenbrun fell afoul of intra-network politics (after a TV campaign-coverage breakthrough, a Cuban missile crisis scoop), and resigned--to pursue his own projects, which he scants for president-by-president wrap-ups and pronouncements. But the central 300 pages (of 500 or so) are predominantly Schoenbrun's story--and much of it is high-level drama, keenly felt.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1984
Publisher: McGraw-Hill