From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The beloved cultural and political commentator Schlesinger (1917-2007) formed his left-leaning worldview during FDR's New Deal; a liberal scholar and historian, Schlesinger produced more than 25 books (his last was 2005's War and the American Presidency), won two Pulitzers and became a powerful force in shaping liberal political thought. Taking readers through Schlesinger's diaries year by year, the book begins with Schlesinger's first encounters with presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, for whose (unsuccessful) campaign he would become a speech-writer; fortunately, off-years pass by quickly (1953-1959 take up fewer than 30 pages), picking up again in 1960, when Schlesinger became special advisor to President Kennedy. With characteristic candor, Schlesinger weighs in on both: of Stevenson, "probably even more conservative than I had thought"; of JFK, "he has most of FDR's lesser qualities. Whether he has FDR's greater qualities is the problem for the future." Subsequent years bring the expected: Vietnam and LBJ, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Nixon and Watergate, the rise of Reagan and the fall of the Soviets, the first Gulf War and the second George Bush, all viewed through Schlesinger's singular perspective. Interspersed between an endless, engrossing parade of lunches with luminaries such as Henry Kissenger and Jackie Onassis, Schlesinger discusses his own work and a few personal details ("Another year; another house... spent most of the month getting settled at 118 East 82nd Street with my beloved Alexandra"). Most of the memoir, however, is a pleasingly understated whirlwind of big names and bigger issues. Rich in insight and cagily observed history, Schlesinger's weighty memoirs will mesmerize political junkies; even lay-readers will be charmed and fascinated by Schlesinger's take on the 20th century's last half.
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Over a career that spanned more than half a century, two-time Pulitzer Prize winnerâ"The Age of Jackson
(1945) and the biography A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House
(1965; it also won the National Book Award)â"Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., knew as much about the inner workings of government and society as any person alive. Schlesingerâs sons, both scholars, have painstakingly pared their fatherâs prodigious output (critics comment that the year 1999 is, oddly, missing from the final product, though Schlesinger died in 2007) into a document that should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the social and political forces that drove postâ"World War II America. Journals
is an important artifact, a "moving and monumental 48-year chronicle" (New York Times
), and an insiderâs playbook to a rich historical period.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.