JOHN VOLPE: The Life of an Immigrant's Son by Kathleen Kilgore

JOHN VOLPE: The Life of an Immigrant's Son

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An adulatory biography of a politician now nearing 80. The narrative relates how, as Richard Nixon's ambassador to Italy, Volpe was faithful to the bitter end. The prose is straight-faced and most of the humor is unconscious. The story of Volpe's reluctance to part with the ambassador's residence even after Gerald Ford lost is fairly comic. Kilgore excuses the ambassador's tenacity with the information that Volpe paid for some improvements on the house out of his own pocket; she implies that this made him think the Rome villa actually belonged to him. There is remarkably little detail about the serious public service in Volpe's career, such as serving on panels about drunk driving and relief for Italian earthquake victims. instead of focusing on these generally honorable efforts, Kilgore includes many random details that succeed only in establishing an atmosphere of Republican clubhouse politics, making Volpe seem more of a smoke-filled-room hack than either he or the author would like. The portrait painted here of Republican politics in Massachusetts is dire: in the last gubernatorial election, both GOP candidates had to withdraw for lying and other ""bizarre behavior."" In such an absurdly muggish atmosphere, the unexceptional Volpe, an organization man who played by the rules, seems almost to merit a biography, although not of this hagiographic variety.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Yankee