IT SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY: Memoirs by John Bartlow Martin


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Apparently prompted by what he feels is a lack of leadership in the Democratic Party today, Martin has seen fit to put together this memoir that evokes in colorful anecdotes and highly personal opinions the period when the Democrats were attempting to transform America with such sweeping social programs as JFK's ""New Frontier"" and LBJ's ""Great Society."" This is a nostalgia trip with a purpose. Whether Martin will be able to arouse the enthusiasm of the reader for what he obviously sees as ""the good old days"" remains to be seen. Chances are that the author's involvement with the figures he reveres (as campaign advisor, ambassador, speechwriter, personal friend) will undermine many readers' confidence in the objectivity of his recollections. Nonetheless, he here presents a lively and often surprisingly candid look at the recent political past. Martin sketches in the origins of his interest in politics by relating his experiences as a writer for such periodicals as The New Yorker, Harper's and The Atlantic. In the articles he produced, Martin dealt with such matters as capital punishment, labor disputes and civil rights. It was inevitable that he would be recruited to provide material for political aspirants such as Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, the Kennedys and Johnson. His experiences with these figures as well as with such personalities as Jimmy Hoffa and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley make up the major--and most successful--portion of the book. When he turns his attention to his domestic and literary life, Martin is often repetitious and predictable. Even when he recounts his experiences as Kennedy's Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, the events he describes often seem trivial and the tone self-congratulatory. As might be expected, the present Administration comes in for some blistering and Jimmy Carter doesn't fare much better. Martin knows where his loyalties lie and they are resolutely maintained, even at the risk of sometimes alienating his readers. Unlikely to convince Republican non-believers, possibly infuriating to Carter adherents, sure to please Democrats of a more traditional ""liberal"" bent.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1986
Publisher: Morrow