Another odd episode steps out from the Cold War’s shadows. Riveting.



Who would have thought that the Zen-saintly author of The Snow Leopard might have been a spook?

If the FBI was a bunch of working stiffs, the CIA was a patrician fraternity—at least back in the early days, when its members were recruited from the dining halls of Princeton, Yale, and Harvard. So it was that when George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, and Harold Humes cooked up the Paris Review as a high-flown literary journal, they landed CIA funding in a number of guises, including direct payment for keeping an eye on what the expat community was up to in those early years of the American-Soviet rivalry. Fifteen years later, writes Guernica founding editor Whitney in the opening pages of this lid-blowing account, Humes would have regrets, for “any association with the super-secret spy agency—notorious for coups, assassinations, and undermining democracy in the name of fighting communism—tainted the reputations of those involved.” But that was 1967, when things began to go south, and not just in Vietnam. In 1951, it was another story; the agency was handing out fistfuls of money to youngish intellectuals in an odd episode of “publishing exuberance,” all with an eye to beating the Soviets at the culture game. Whitney enlists an unlikely cast of characters, including Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda (“in an acrobatic feat, the CIA’s campaign to discredit Neruda did not preclude it from using his work to gain the trust and readership of Latin Americans”), and James Baldwin, all caught up in this net. If the story of the CIA’s involvement in the publication of Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago is already well-known, many other incidents in Whitney’s narrative will come as surprises, few of them entirely agreeable. But in the end, the plan seems to have backfired inasmuch as many of the principals, Matthiessen included, drifted leftward and became fierce critics of their sponsors and the government behind them.

Another odd episode steps out from the Cold War’s shadows. Riveting.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68219-024-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: OR Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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