A LOVE AFFAIR WITH LIFE AND SMITHSONIAN by Edward K. Thompson

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH LIFE AND SMITHSONIAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A dynamic man at the center of turbulent history has produced an autobiography as anemic as his magazines were vibrant. Managing editor of Life magazine in its glory years, Thompson was in the thick of the tumult that carried the US through WW II, McCarthyism and the Cold War, the early '60s, and the moon landing. He knew the Duke of Windsor, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur, and Richard Nixon. His staff of photographers is legendary, including Alfred Eisenstaedt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Douglas Duncan, Cornell Capa, and Gordon Parks. Thompson went on to found Smithsonian magazine, a colorful publication that ranges engagingly and authoritatively over science and art, past and present. Born and raised in remote St. Thomas, N. Dak., Thompson studied journalism and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Dakota. He moved quickly from jobs on small-town newspapers to the Milwaukee Journal, where he was tapped as editor of the paper's new picture page and Sunday rotogravure section. Based on his performance in Milwaukee, he went to work for the infant Life in 1939. Service during WW II took him overseas with US intelligence (he was assigned to the famous Ultra code-breaking team in England) but didn't slow his rise at Life. He became managing editor in 1949, presiding over some of the magazine's most memorable stories, including the remarkable series ""The World We Live In."" Justly proud of his accomplishments, Thompson doesn't overinflate his contribution or his relationships with such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway and the Luces (Henry and Clare Boothe). But his m‚tier is clearly the visual--even in chapters about which he must feel a passion, like how issues of the magazines were planned and carried out, the writing falls curiously flat. A disappointingly thin gruel that could have been a rich porridge.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri