A revelatory history of a time when journalism was respected and vital.



In an informative group biography, Cott (History/Harvard Univ.; Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation, 2001, etc.) focuses on four foreign correspondents whose reporting, from 1920 to the 1940s, enlightened Americans about global events.

As the author notes, journalism was alive and well during this period; in 1920, 2,500 newspapers circulated 32 million copies each day. Large cities had four or more dailies in addition to Sunday papers, weeklies, monthlies, and many foreign-language and ethnic-group papers. Ninety-five percent of Americans read newspapers. Jobs in journalism were easy to get, and many young men and women—Hemingway, for one, went to Paris as a reporter for the Toronto Star—took the opportunity to travel, supported by a newspaper back home. Drawing on considerable archival and published material, Cott profiles Dorothy Thompson, Vincent James Sheean, John Gunther, and Rayna Raphaelson as representative of their profession. Excepting Raphaelson, whose career was cut short by her death in her early 30s, the other three serve well to illuminate the perils and triumphs of gathering foreign news. Raphaelson rebelled against the expectations of her upper-middle-class Jewish family to sail to China with no newspaper experience or job connections, but through dogged efforts, she reported fearlessly about China’s and Russia’s political upheavals. Nevertheless, her influence was never as broad as that of the other three writers, whose dispatches from Russia, Germany, Europe, and Palestine led to regular columns (Thompson, for example, contributed “On the Record” for the Herald Tribune, reaching some 8 million readers), radio broadcasts, lectures, and book deals. Sheean’s memoir Personal History, adapted as the 1940 movie Foreign Correspondent, gave rise to other memoirs in which journalists recounted their witnessing of international events. Gunther’s ambitious Inside Europe vividly portrayed Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. The book sold nearly 1,000 copies per week and was translated into 14 languages. Like Sheean and Thompson, Gunther became a celebrity and “a trusted source for whatever in the world Americans wanted to know.”

A revelatory history of a time when journalism was respected and vital.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9933-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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