Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Life In the 20th Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950 Hardcover – 2001
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
However, Schlesinger is a masterful writer, and I can gobble his prose for hours--even this prose. It's worth reading even for that.
The man has seen and experienced a lot which is why this memoir is so interesting and in many ways enlightening. Born in 1917, he claims his motivation for writing this memoir is that he should do it while he "can still remember anything."
The reader need have no fear that Schlesinger is losing anything. The level of recall and sometimes even minutia in the book is astonishing. Much of his source is journals and diaries that he seems to have kept religiously.
A Life in the 20th Century is a very enjoyable read partly because of excellent content but also due to some wonderfully descriptive prose. Schlesinger's ability to paint pictures of characters is a lesson in communication. Friends of his father - also a historian - were "brilliant and effervescent," "dour and trenchant," "jovially caustic."
Schlesinger's memoir also shows how much western society (U.S. particularly) matured during the century in question. The level of Puritanism, distrust, isolationism and racism which permeated the first half of the century has to a great extent dissipated.
Schlesinger write, "As late as 1939, the Gallup poll reported that a third of respondents thought it indecent for men to appear topless" on the beach. The level of Anglophobia during the thirties is difficult to comprehend today, given as in Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase "the special relationship" between the United States and England. However, there was a virulent anti-British mood, motivated mainly by a belief that the U.S. had been hoodwinked into the First World War. Schlesinger suggests that the level of debate between the isolationists and those who wished to take on Hitler was more vicious and aggressive than even the national debate over Vietnam.
As an Irish person, it is illustrative to read that the great black scholar and activist, W.E.B Du Bois wrote in his memoir, quoted by Schlesinger, that "the racial angle was more clearly defined against the Irish than against me."
The chapter on `The Thirties' is particularly evocative. Hitler's shadow looms ominously through the decade. "We danced the night through, my English friends not knowing when they would dance again, the purple shadows fell, and Hitler's clock ticked steadily on."
Just how close the world came to domination by totalitarian regimes - fascist or communist - can be gauged by the fact that by the end of 1940, there were only a dozen democracies in the world.
The liberal Schlesinger is an avowed anti-communist who paints a very vibrant picture of the anti-communist fervor that ran through America after the war. While writing very critically about communist intrigue, he does give a number of American communists credit for believing - however wrongly, that the best future for mankind was in communism. Schlesinger never hides his anti-communism. Sometimes this interferes with his objectivity about individuals e.g. he describes former Communist Party USA chief Earl Browder in the following terms, "The benign exterior was marred by a pair of shifty eyes.... Each word carefully planned and followed by a crafty smile. His face had an overcrowded look - not enough room between forehead and chin for eyes and nose." Not what I would call objective!
The author's personality does not come through in the memoir. He does make a number of references to being, or being seen as a rather pompous individual, given to outbursts of anger. There are also very few humorous examples or references in what is generally a very good read. Indeed the only sections where I lost interest were when he referenced the innumerable social occasions, local personalities and the very many `dear friends' he got to meet.
All in all, well worth reading if you want to get a good overview of US and world politics during a very traumatic time. It has definitely given me the motivation to read other works from a fine historian and wonderful writer. Not sure if that is how Arthur M. Schlesinger wants to be remembered though.
There are high points and low points to this book. His experiences at Harvard, worn torn Europe, and the ideological battles between communists and liberals over control of the American left were fascinating. However, we are also privy to every movie, play, book, and cocktail dinner that schlesinger ever attended. It's interesting to gain this perspective, but it gets tedious. This book could have used substantial editing.
I'm a Schlesinger fan, but I skimmed through many pages. Despite these shortcoming, Schlesinger still imparts his genious.
Most recent customer reviews
Most notably a name associated with the Kennedys, Schlesinger documents the activities of...Read more