THE THREE CAREERS OF EUGENE MEYER by Merlo J. Pusey
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THE THREE CAREERS OF EUGENE MEYER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rebuilding the bankrupt Washington Post -- bought at auction in 1933 for $825,000 -- was the most interesting of Eugene Meyer's careers (he was 57 at the time), the one that suited him best and was to keep him actively involved (along with his publisher son-in-law Philip Graham who committed suicide, but that's only one more story about this notable family) right up to Meyer's death at 83 in 1959. He was the son of French-Jewish immigrants, but the family was only briefly among those masses of hungry and poor. Soon his father became a partner in an international banking firm, and Eugene (Yale, class of 95), too, by the age of 21 was already developing his own business acumen. The making of money, though, is fascinating only to those who are actually doing it, and the first part of this biography about how Meyer accumulated a fortune from copper mining, oil, the Allied Chemical Company, etc., makes tedious reading. Meyer himself was to become bored with such high finance and at the age of 40 looked for a job in ""public service."" And for the next 16 years, the last two as governor of the Federal Reserve Board (retiring shortly after FDR's election), he served as a dollar a year man on various government committees. Then came the Post acquisition -- and uncharacteristic blunders (as a neophyte to journalism Meyer was indifferent to losing the paper's comic features, until the staff convinced him that it was worth the court battle to keep Andy Gump, Dick Tracy and Gasoline Alley). Eventually Meyer became a media power as he bought television and radio stations, absorbed Colonel McCormick's Times-Herald (thus giving the Post the exclusive morning field in Washington) and, later, Newsweek -- the empire Katherine Graham now oversees with equal success and dedication. One wishes for more of her in this biography, as well as more about her mother, a one-time bohemian, who while Mr. Meyer was busy in the marketplace kept herself pleasantly distracted with dalliances with Thomas Mann, Paderewski and others we can only speculate about. What's gone wrong with Pulitzer Price-winner Pusey's book is that he had to work from eight volumes of autobiography produced by Meyer -- a publisher who although he would have allowed no censorship in a Post story seems to have felt otherwise about his own. Still, it's an extremely involving family.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Knopf