A PRESENT OF THINGS PAST: Selected Essays by Theodore Draper


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The sound of his own axe grinding mars this collection of otherwise informative, penetrating political-historical essays by Draper (Present History, The Roots of American Communism, etc.). Drawn from The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, etc, the essays cover a wide range of topics, from ""The 'Class Struggle' "" to Max Eitingon, a colleague of Sigmund Freud. Divorced from their original context, however--many were responses to arguments published elsewhere--they often lose force and cogency. Draper returns to his earlier interests in ""American Communism Revisited,"" and examines ""Soviet Reformers: From Lenin To Gorbachev."" He is at his best when detailing the complicated background of the Kuwait-Iran-Iraq wrangle that led to the attack on the Stark in the Persian Gulf; or when he painstakingly defends his belief that Eisenhower was motivated as much by political as military considerations (and maybe more by the former) in his conduct of WW II. He is at his worst, though, when he perceives a threat or attack on his nonacademic standing in the political discourse: ""Many of these new historians, as they like to call themselves, derive from political and personal backgrounds in the New Left of the 1960s. They were students then and are mainly assistant professors now."" That kind of snideness is unbecoming of any polemicist and serves only to color--or blanch--otherwise evenhanded work. Often revisionist and too often contentious, Draper is an essayist whose historical writing can be extraordinary. But, as these essays show, he all too frequently enlists history to his own defense.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux