Customer Reviews: American Radical: The Life and Times of I. F. Stone
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on May 27, 2009
I.F. Stone was an independent journalist now best known for the self-published "I.F. Stone's Weekly," which influenced a generation of crusading journalists. Stone presciently opposed the Vietnam War from the outset and otherwise set a standard for independence and analysis that his spiritual descendants, today's bloggers, can only emulate. Anyone interested in the great ideological, political, and cultural issues that engulfed 20th Century America and still affect us will want to read this fascinating biography. But if you come for the history what will keep you turning the pages is the portrait of a compelling and very human person (Stone smuggled himself into pre-independence Israel to see the first Arab-Israeli war first hand; in his old age, he taught himself ancient Greek and wrote a best seller about the trial of Socrates; after his death, he was unfairly targeted by the right wing as a Soviet agent). D.D. Guttenplan does a masterful job bringing to life the man and the times (just like the title says). Guttenplan has an impressive ability to describe Stone's world, whether in 1920s working-class Jewish Philadelphia or 1960s Washington and New York, and to summarize in a fair and perceptive way the many thorny political and ideological disputes that engulfed Stone, America, and the world. My standard for the merit of a book is how reluctant you are to put it down and how much food for thought it has given you. I loved meeting I.F. Stone, was sad to part company with him at the end, and was greatly enriched and inspired by Guttenplan's depiction of a life and times that continue to resonate today.
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on May 27, 2009
D.D. Guttenplan has got it completely right. I actually knew Izzy Stone a little bit. He was a force of nature and perhaps the 20th century's most important -- and certainly most independent -- political journalist. He was also a completely independent radical who had a life-time commitment to social justice but never compromised his own autonomy or allowed himself to parrot any kind of party line. Guttenplan's clear and intelligent narrative gives us a full picture of Stone's irrascible integrity as well as his utter brilliance as a writer and political analyst. It's also a great read.
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on June 19, 2009
Izzy Stone and I had lunch together a number of times in Washington DC between 1962 and 1982, while I was a Fellow of the Inst. for Policy Studies and he was --- Izzy. The book gets him right. It's an amazing life to absorb. He was gutsy, independent-minded beyond even most radicals: Told me with rueful pride how he had supported Tito's independent Yugoslavia vs. the USSR and lost many thousands of bulk subs for the Weekly that had been bought by unions controlled by the Communist Party. Said he'd never sell bulk subs again -- too dependent on big purchases from a few people.

He told me that if you stick to your beliefs-in-action, first they call you a radical and a trouble-maker , then a traitor (to whatever system you live in), and if you live long enough, a saint. "Beware of sainthood" he said. "I'm not sure it's worth living that long." Read the book!

- Shalom, salaam., peace --
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center
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on June 19, 2009
Izzy Stone's Weekly provides the best chronicle of its time, far more reliable and critical of power than the Times of any American city. Anyone with doubts to this man's integrity and contribution to the art (rather than the mere practice) of journalism need only watch the great documentary of the early 1970s, I.F. Stone's Weekly, or read D. D. Guttenplan's biography. While, as Will Rogers famously said, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, I. F. Stone treated that public as if it were the conscience of the republic that Thomas Jefferson believed it would be. While we may lament the degradation of democracy in the United States, it is worthwhile to read about a man who never doubted its importance or its potential. It is about time he had the fine biography he deserved.
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on June 19, 2009
Those who have read Barbara Ehrenreich's commencement address to this years graduating class at UC Berkeley know how lucky we are to still have a few such journalists as D.D. Guttenplan. Don is able to tell Izzie Stone's remarkable story from the unique vantage point of one who has already lived a contemporary approximation of the same remarkable story. It takes a journalist who has experienced the obstacles that lie in the path of truth-telling to narrate the exitement, the frustration and the ultimate satisfaction of picking the locks on doors that our rulers intend to remain firmly shut. If you're over fifty, this book will be an extraordinary recreation of some of recent history's worst and best moments; if you're under thirty and want to tell it like it is, it will show you what you're up against.

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on January 4, 2013
A masterful biography of a journalist who had a great career, a period of loss of influence and access, and then a second great career singlehandedly scooping the big papers. Throughout, his values were clear and moral, although what he had to do to make a living occasionally took him to the edge. It will surprise some of his subscribers of the 1960s and 1970s that he had a period doing corporate analysis for a financial newsletter whose sponsor used his ability to find corruption and malfeasance to develop stockholder lawsuits. Guttenplan gives us the highs and the lows, and describes Stone's difficulty in the period when events in the Thirties forced many progressives to realize that the Soviet Union would never be a model of a humane socialist state - it is hard to remember that many liberals once thought that - and his clarity ever after on the issue. The book is also a useful review of our politics from the Thirties through the Sixties, with ugly battles and craven behavior in government that we seem to have to re-experience in each generation.
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on November 19, 2009
I.F. Stone has already received at least three other extensive studies, but this is the most comprehensive and detailed social history and biography of Stone.It is I. F. Stone as a radical voice of dissent that is the real subject of this fine biography. Stone emerges as a man of all seasons. Guttenplan refers to Stone's "transit from pariah to a national institution" and frequently sees him as an outsider, but when he traces Stone's life and lists his vast array of important friends and supporters in high places , he appears not as a marginal figure but at the very center of this nation's 20th century history.

These comments are taken for a review I have written for New Politics:A Journal of Socialisst Thought. It is scheduled to appear in its forthcoming issue.
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on July 21, 2009
Well-written biographies are wonderful ways to learn and have a good read. You read without feeling as though you're slogging through a book you have to read for edification, as opposed to entertainment. American Radical is a great read -- on many levels. It works as a story (which we all love), as social history (important for all Americans) and political discourse (crucial, especially in these times). It's a real story, but since it's a true story, it is frankly far more interesting and worthwhile than many novels. Thankfully, the writing is as engaging as a good novel.

Today we are living in strange times -- our(my) tax dollars, as a decidedly middle class person, are being given out in billion dollar bailouts to wealthy firms and used for billion dollar bonuses for already wealthy people. Huh? Those who created the problems in the economy causing true hardship by many are getting rewarded? What happened to the market discipline and supposed utmost fairness of capitalism, that is you do well, you get rewarded, you fail in the marketplace, you lose? These days the rich who got amply rewarded for what is now clear were unethical if not illegal business practices are being amply rewarded again... This book reminds us of how important it is to draw attention to these issues.

IF Stone's biography by D.D. Guttenplan shines the light on not only the journalist's life, but his times, which are like our times.

The other aspect that makes this a must read is the near death experience we're seeing for journalism. Without my local paper, the Boston Globe, the Catholic Church sex abuse story/tragedy/scandal likely would never have come to light. Likewise the abuses in our state government pension system. Yet today many local papers are almost bankrupt. I shudder to think what would happen if journalism, as practiced by people like I F Stone, died. The fourth estate is essential for democracy. Reading this book is not only enjoyable, it is important for anyone who wants to think about and understand how critical journalism is to our way of life.

Buy it, read it, act on the lessons.
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on June 19, 2009
and the reason is I find myself savoring every line. I didn't know I.F. Stone (although I had a couple of brief telephone conversations with him), but he and his reader were instrumental in my becoming a journalist. I also remember watching the documentary of him and being so moved as he cried putting the last issue of his reader to bed. Whatever his flaws (and he was human, and Don Guttenplan shows this), he was a remarkable figure, and the book so far does him perfect justice. I will continue to read this book slowly, because I just don't want to come to the end of Izzie's remarkable life and this equally remarkable biography that is such a great read you will always remember where you were when you read it.
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on June 22, 2015
A very important book to read for a better understanding of the politics of the past and how they affected the politics of today and the future. The demise of truth and the facts of current events continues in the American newsmedia. Makes one wish I. F. Stone was still around to comment.
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