Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Guardians of the American Century

Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Guardians of the American Century

by Robert W. Merry
     
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Educated at Groton, Harvard and Yale, the Connecticut-Yankee Alsops formed a postwar journalistic partnership with a New York Herald Tribune column read by millions. ``At every crisis and critical juncture,'' writes Merry, ``they were there to give expression to the principles and impulses that guided the nation's foreign-policy leaders and shaped its role in the world.'' Their illuminating commentary on the great issues of the day, from the end of WWII to the fall of Saigon in 1975, was a chronicle of the old order's disintegration as well, according to Merry. McCarthyism was seen as an assault on the WASP elite; the 1956 Suez crisis, principally a humiliation for the British, as a weakening of the authority of establishment Anglo-Saxons; while the war in Vietnam completed the process. In this richly detailed double bio, Merry brings the brothers themselves into three-dimensional view-Stewart (1914-1974), the plainspoken, dispassionate realist; Joseph (1912-1989), the hyperbolic gadfly-and describes how they helped define the end of the American century. As much social and cultural history as biography, the book should have wide appeal. Merry is a former Wall Street Journal Washington correspondent. Photos. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Joseph and Stewart Alsop covered the American political scene for the New York Herald Tribune, the Saturday Evening Post, and Newsweek from the 1930s into the 1970s. Born into America's Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and educated at elite institutions, the brothers had personal ties to the most powerful men and women of their time. Merry, executive editor of Congressional Quarterly and a former Washington correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, combines accounts of the brothers' personal lives with a history of their journalism careers. He moves easily from the details of an extravagant dinner party at Joe's Georgetown home to a discussion of how the brothers covered the "loss of China." While the book offers little critical analysis of journalists as insiders, it is an engrossing history of how two very powerful journalists covered and attempted to shape American policy through the middle years of the 20th century. For all journalism collections.-Judy Solberg, Univ. of Maryland Libs., College Park
Gilbert Taylor
Along with Walter Lippmann, the brothers Alsop, at times professional partners, at times rivals, were "the" bigfoot pundits of cold-war Washington. Merry balances their divergent temperaments to ensure that each man emerges as an individual: Joe was boisterous, argumentative, and gay (secretly); Stewart was cooler, analytical, and married. But they shared a flinty Connecticut Yankee outlook, which crudely assumed the rightness of the eastern establishment to govern America. Distant kinsmen of the Roosevelts, they stepped from the Ivy League to war in China (Joe) and France (Stewart), and after the war, they became must-read newspaper columnists followed by millions. Politicians knew that, and so endless scenes of Georgetown socializing with Kennedy, among others, consume a large chunk of Merry's text, which includes many embarrassing, by the current ethic, kiss-up letters from Joe to various pooh-bahs. They parted ways in 1958, but both continued producing opinion pieces, with Joe the staunchest of hawks on Vietnam, until Stewart's death and Joe's retirement in the mid-1970s. An impressive and complete dual biography that is a solid addition to journalism history.
Booknews
Chronicles the lives and careers of the Alsop brothers, prominent newspaper and magazine columnists who inspired and influenced Americans from WWII to the early 1970s, intertwining biography with social and cultural history. Offers accounts of the brothers' interactions with figures including the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson, as well as details on their personal lives. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Michael Beschloss
A fascinating dual biography of Joe Alsop and his brother Stuart...Merry artfully recreates the Shakespearean relationship between Joe and his brother...superbly rendered.
—Michael Beschloss, Newsweek

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670838684
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/01/1996
Pages:
672
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.58(h) x 2.00(d)

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Stanley Karnow
Not just a portrait of two influential journalists but the portrait of an age.
—Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam

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