20TH CENTURY JOURNEY
A Memoir Of A Life And The Times; The Start 1904-1930
Foreign correspondent Shirer, it can conventionally be said, had led a full, rich life--at least from the age of twenty-one when, as a "raw Iowa youth," late editor of the Coe College Cosmos, he landed a job on the fabled Paris Tribune, never to go home again. But his satisfaction comes across mainly as self-satisfaction, combined with relief at escaping American "bigotry and banality"; his experience of foreign places reduces to platitudes about the "history within every cathedral, church, palace, museum and gallery, and in every park, cemetery, square and street"; his account of the life he lived through is flat, his report of people and events more gossipy than revealing. And, sadly, his is mean-spirited: the uncomely are described with contempt, celebrities are trailed to their often-ignominious ends. One searches, indeed, for clues to Shirer's incontrovertible success. Resentment at early snubs? A childhood passion for war news, a penchant for soldiering? Or perhaps sheer aggressiveness: at nine or so he pummeled his "bitchy," "ugly old grandma" into submission, an incident he relates without embarrassment. "The secret of this business is to turn it out fast under pressure," said Chicago Trib correspondent Wales, the day before elevating him to the foreign staff of the home paper. The days on the Paris Trib of Thurber, Elliot Paul, and Eugene Jolas are not without interest, nor his coverage of Lindbergh's arrival in Paris (which won him the promotion); and the Vienna he later shared with John Gunther, Whit Burnett and Martha Foley, Dorothy Thompson and "Red" Lewis, Moura Budberg and H.G. Wells is a wonderment. But the affairs, sexual and otherwise, of a few remarkable personalities cannot redeem a long, cranky, clumsy book. At the close he's off to Gandhi's India and what may be a more inspiring volume two.