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The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill (.) Hardcover – February 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: .
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1St Edition edition (February 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618574670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618574674
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most college freshmen have one class that shatters their adolescent worldview forever; for Worthen, it was a history seminar at Yale taught by retired diplomat Charles Hill. By semester's end, her hero worship had become so intense that she spent every available moment until her 2004 graduation pursuing his life story. The biography reveals Hill as a typical Cold War intellectual, serving his government in China and the Middle East as well as in Washington; most notably, in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair he was accused of withholding evidence from the independent counsel. Worthen is much less upset by this possible misstep, however, than by her idol's emotional aloofness from his family. Worthen's youth doesn't serve her work, or her subject, well. She imbues Hill's life with artificial melodrama. She also muses constantly on her own shifting feelings toward "Charlie"—a matter of considerably less interest to readers than to herself—and expresses amazement that he isn't what she had thought. Finally, the reader is drowned in youthful banalities and occasionally naïveté (could anyone find it "alarming" that professors buy coffee at Starbucks just like anyone else?). A more mature perspective might have done more justice to Hill's brilliance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"This is one of the most artful biographies I've read....compelling...told with the language and sensitivity of a novelist." --John B. Judis, Senior Editor of The New Republic and author of The Folly of Empire and The Paradox of American Democracy

"Engrossing...I highly recommend it." --Henry Kissinger

"What a fascinating and compelling book!" --Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Worthen deftly describes the impact that [Charles Hill] had on U.S. foreign policy. . .[with] skill, psychological insight and compassion." --Anne Bartlett Bookpage

"Worthen is a beautiful writer, always clear and comprehensive....[her] work is nuanced, reasonable, and thoughtful." --Michael D. Langan Buffalo News

"The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost...is a laudable and illuminating achievement." --Trey Popp The San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] subtle, penetrating, and completely absorbing portrait." --Daniel Akst Boston Globe

"[A] portrait of a fascinating, deeply human man and a girl grown up." --Karen R. Long Cleveland Plain Dealer

"History buffs will delight...Worthen [has] a good sense for metaphor and a tangible zest for her subject." --Sarah Bramwell, National Review

"Fascinating...It is a story that often reads like a combination of Philip Roth's 'Ghost Writer' and A.S. Byatt's 'Possession.'" --Michiko Kakutani The New York Times

"Strangely passionate...an oddly touching and rewarding read." --Christopher Willcox New York Sun

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Customer Reviews

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This is a fascinating book.
Scipio
Worthen was the first researcher to have access to what will surely become known as one of the most important documents of American foreign policy of the 20th century.
Electric Light
On very basic level, this book is a common story of coming to know someone you admire, told with uncommon skill.
Occam

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Electric Light on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Don't believe the Publishers Weekly reviewer, who missed the point entirely. This book is wise, compelling, eye-opening, and, at times, very funny. Worthen--who was only 21 when she started writing this book--questions all the old assumptions about how to write someone's biography, especially the biography of someone still living. She transforms what might have been just an interesting story--the life of an obscure but powerful foreign service officer--into an elegant and perceptive meditation about the relationship between students and teachers, the morality of power and war, and the purpose of higher education.

The book is full of startling information based on painstaking research and interviews, and sheds fascinating light on life at one of the country's best universities. Her portrait of life at Yale--and especially the now-famous and exclusive Grand Strategy seminar--offers insight into how young Americans think about the world and their place in it. The connections between Worthen's take on the subject and the ideas of David Brooks (notably his "Organization Kid" article from the Atlantic a few years back) are striking (and unsurprising, given that it was a column by Brooks in the New York Times that launched this book).

Students of foreign policy and strategy will want to read this book for its candid and behind-the-scenes take on life at the highest levels of the US government. Through Charles Hill, her subject, Worthen offers an object lesson in how power is used and foreign policy made, first in Vietnam, then in the office of Henry Kissinger, then at the top of the Reagan Administration. Of huge value here are the thousands of pages of verbatim notes that Hill took as George Shultz's right-hand-man during the Reagan years.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Occam on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb book. As a Yale freshman, Molly Worthen encountered Charles Hill as a professor. In a past life, he was a US Foreign Service Officer whose apparently ordinary career was distinguished by the extraordinary trust reposed in him by some of the more towering figures of recent American history and by his equally extraordinary intellectual ambition. His avid note-taking helped to catapult him up the Foreign Service food chain and to land him in hot water with the Iran-Contra investigation, to which Worthen, drawing on his unpublished contemporaneous notes, devotes considerable attention (and finds that he and the State Department at large were mostly innocent victims of Kenneth Walsh's over-zealousness).

To those who have been students, Worthen's initial surprise that professors--even forbidding and remote ones like Hill--are people as well as professors will sound familiar and even cliched. Less familiar, and not at all cliched, was Worthen's discontent with this simplistic picture and her determination to paint a more truthful one, even at the risk of puncturing her own easy idealism. In Hill, she found someone interesting enough to merit further scrutiny and brave (or foolhardy) enough to permit it. On very basic level, this book is a common story of coming to know someone you admire, told with uncommon skill. It deserves acclaim on this ground alone.

But the book is far richer than that. Around the unifying theme of grand strategy, Worthen explores some big questions, especially the tension between individuals and the greater good, and between reality and ideas, as manifested in the tension between family and work in Hill's own life.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Scipio on January 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book. Worthen was still an undergraduate at Yale when she began it, and she brings both the idealism of youth and a mature writing style to the page. Besides being a fly on the wall at some of the most important foreign policy events of the 20th century, the reader also gets an inside view of one of Yale University's most elite communities -- the Grand Strategy program, which trains future leaders in the art of statecraft. Followers of contemporary political events will be particularly interested, since two of the Grand Strategy professors -- John Lewis Gaddis and Charles Hill -- have close contacts with, and regularly advise the Bush Administration. This is no tawdry expose of secret societies (a la Secrets of the Tomb), but an insightful look into how an experienced diplomat mentors some of the most accomplished students in our country. It also is a moving coming of age story, as Worthen learns that her mentor is as flawed and human as the famous leaders he counseled.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By bookmanswake on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Charles Hill is the consumate man behind the curtain - Worthen writes a bio worthy of close examination - her writing is just lovely and shows her wisdom. - Great job.
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