K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist [NOOK Book]


Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted—“a surreal extravaganza,” as historian John Lewis Gaddis called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, ...
See more details below
K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price
(Save 31%)$15.99 List Price


Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted—“a surreal extravaganza,” as historian John Lewis Gaddis called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe.

Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the trip, K Blows Top is a work of history that reads like a Vonnegut novel. This cantankerous communist’s road trip took place against the backdrop of the fifties in capitalist America, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man who possessed the power to incinerate America.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jacob Heilbrunn
Carlson, a former feature writer for The Washington Post, confesses to being obsessed with Khrushchev's peregrinations ever since first reading old newspaper clips about them several decades ago as a rewrite man at People magazine. Since then, Carlson seems to have sought and discovered every piece of arcana associated with the Soviet leader's American sojourn. A deft and amusing writer, Carlson does a marvelous job of recounting it.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Although Punch magazine famously commented on the humor of Nikita Khrushchev's desire to visit Disneyland during his 1959 trip to America, Carlson a former writer for the Washington Post, can still mine the tour with hilarious results, due in equal parts to Khrushchev's outsized provocateur personality and the bizarre and thoroughly American reaction to his visit. Numerous secondary players provide comic support: then vice president Richard Nixon's fixations on mano a mano debates with the quicksilver premier; Boston Brahmin and U.N. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Khrushchev's tour guide, who dutifully filed daily analysis of Khrushchev's public tantrums; popular gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, who in a noteworthy example of bad taste attacked Mrs. Khrushchev's attire. A host of other American icons also make appearances: among them Herbert Hoover, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra. Although Carlson's focuses on the comic, there are insights into Khrushchev's personality, many provided by his son Sergei, now a respected professor at Brown University, illuminating the method in Khrushchev's madness. All in all, in Carson's hands the cold war is a surprisingly laughing matter. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

At a time when the Cold War was at its chilliest, an amazing thing happened: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the energetic and unpredictable leader of America's most hated enemy, took a tour across the breadth of America in summer 1959. Followed by a gaggle of press, curious spectators, and nervous government security forces, the sometimes amiable, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes maddening Khrushchev held the limelight for ten days as he sampled American culture and cuisine while extolling the advantages of his Communist homeland. Carlson, who has spent his career at various journalistic posts, including the Washington Post, has crafted an exceedingly entertaining and detailed history of this momentous event. Pouring over hundreds of newspaper clippings as well as the most significant published memoirs and secondary sources, he brings a refreshing liveliness to the episode and the era. For anyone interested in this remarkable moment in the long history of U.S.-Soviet relations, Carlson's book is a treat! For most collections.
—Ed Goedeken

Kirkus Reviews
A high-spirited, often hilarious account of a forgotten moment in Cold War history. It began as something of a dare, as if the last occupant of the White House had invited Saddam Hussein to visit Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon and then debate the superiority of American over Ba'athist culture. In this instance, following the so-called Kitchen Debate in Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev set out on a road show to beat the capitalists at their own game, proving that the Soviets knew all about refrigerators, ICBMs and hot dogs. Former Washington Post reporter Carlson writes that Khrushchev's back-and-forth wanderings across the country in 1959 were quite bizarre, drawing many protests but some admiration. Among those in the former camp was Marilyn Monroe, who thought the Russian leader "was fat and ugly and had warts on his face and he growled...Who would want to be a Communist with a president like that?" Walt Disney refused him admission to Disneyland, and the American Dental Association refused to make room for him when he arrived in New York. A less volatile ruler might have brushed such things aside, but Khrushchev, goaded by Richard Nixon, was in a fighting mood, clearly wanting to impress upon the American people the fact that his finger was on the button that could launch thermonuclear doomsday. Carlson writes both vividly and sardonically of Khrushchev's tour, with its mundane and strange moments alike, among the latter a wonderful moment when the San Francisco Beats erected a sign to greet "Big Red" with the words, "Welcome to San Francisco, Noel Coward!" Fortunately, given all the opportunities to tick Khrushchev off beyond repair, Americans behaved themselves. A fast-paced work ofpolitical history, peppered with references to Shirley MacLaine's knickers, Iowa corn, Dwight Eisenhower's frown, Nina Khrushchev's sidelong glances at Frank Sinatra and all the other makings of mutually assured destruction. Agent: Scott Mendel/Mendel Media Group
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786741564
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 417,984
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Peter Carlson is a former feature writer and columnist for The Washington Post, where he wrote the weekly column “The Magazine Reader.” The author of Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, and a co-author—with Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, among others—of The Gospel According to ESPN, he lives in Rockville, MD.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Trip One: The Heat in the Kitchen 1

Trip Two: "A Surreal Extravaganza" 48

Trip Three: The Banging of the Shoe 251

Acknowledgments 309

Notes on Sources 311


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2010

    A comic view of The Cold War

    As the Cold War began to get hotter, the leaders of the United States thought that they could get the Soviets to help come to a decision in the Berlin crisis by inviting their leader to come America in return. As the Soviet Leader, Nikita Khrushchev toured the US, he couldn't help but brag about the Russians as the US leaders just stood by listening. Khrushchev gets the Grand treatment as he tours the country while posters preach against him further angering him after being denied a trip to Disneyland. From the very beginning this book takes a very comic view. It shows the humor of the Soviet leader as well as his temper tantrums and short fuse and how the US leaders don't know how to react to his actions. It is very interesting to see just how laughable this serious situation becomes. This book really captures the drastic measures the two superpowers take in order to prevent war. After reading this book it is safe to say that a major theme would have to be idiocy (it's a wonder why we never went to war after this visit). I would have to recommend this book to everyone who loves any type of history. Never has a book that I know of captured the Cold War as an almost joking matter where both sides could have just blown up the world but where too stubborn. While reading about the Soviets Primer's visit to America, I never once found myself getting bored with the story, because just when one would think it couldn't get crazier, something mind blowing would happen. This book would have to get 5 out of five stars because it tells the tale of an event forgotten in history through eyes that see no bias. My hat goes off to Peter Carlson, the author a great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)