An intricate study of the personalities that shaped U.S. Cold War policy.




Herken (Emeritus, Modern American Diplomatic History/Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence and Edward Teller, 2002, etc.) takes a rather clever idea promising titillating gossip among neighbors Joseph Alsop, Phil Graham and John F. Kennedy during the 1950s and ’60s and amplifies it into a spiraling delineation of the official American response to the perceived Soviet threat.

Anti-Soviet crusading journalist Alsop was one of the first of the “WASP ascendancy” to inhabit the stylish, old political village of Georgetown on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Returning from World War II (where he enlisted in the U.S. effort to bolster Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists) with a vigorous anti-communist bent, Alsop started a long-running, influential column with his younger brother, Stewart, in the New York Herald Tribune, assiduously cultivating political connections—e.g., with Georgetown neighbors Phil and Katharine Graham, publishers of the Washington Post. Alsop’s Sunday dinners were notorious for loud, boisterous and somewhat terrifying political discussions; from these, he would glean his next column. Other Harvard alumni who shaped the alarmist anti-Soviet tone of the postwar era and served as Alsop’s sources were Charles “Chip” Bohlen and George Kennan, both of whom served as ambassador to the Soviet Union and both of whom, along with former OSS officers Frank Wisner and Allen Dulles, would be instrumental in setting up the U.S. covert operations program. Tracing the thread of Alsop’s columns through these harrowing years, including his early denouncement of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Herken helps guide readers through the intimate murk of espionage detail, moving from events in North Korea to Berlin to Cuba. Alsop’s vehement, unrepentant support of the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon, however, threw him out of sync with a new American generation.

An intricate study of the personalities that shaped U.S. Cold War policy.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-27118-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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