Sledgehammer and Gnat
The Fear Within
Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial
By Scott Martelle
(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011)
[This article appears on pp. 117-118 in the Summer/Fall 2011 issue, Volume 18, Number 3, of The Intelligencer magazine, published by the Association of Foreign Intelligence Officers [AFIO)]
In The Fear Within, Scott Martelle writes about a pre-McCarthy trial, which helped set the tone of the 1950s: Dennis v US. He mines his subject well. The nuggets he turns up command far more than a glimmer’s glance.
America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag
By Sarah Palin
(New York: Harper, 2010)
Like a miracle — that is, miraculously in time for America’s biggest annual sales season — Sarah Palin called upon ghosts of Christmases past to fill the pages of her second book, America by Heart. Her publisher promised an “intimate and personal look” at the former Alaska governor by presenting reflections that “read like a bible of American virtues.” Instead, the goods delivered read like a cut-and-paste job: comments stuffed between quotes from famous people — often dead, thus unable to protest Palin’s (mis)treatment.
He heard the screams
Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary
By Richard M. Reinsch II
(Indianapolis: ISI Books, 2010)
(Reviewed by Gary Saul Morson)
(Excerpts from “He Heard the Screams,” published in the November 2010 issue of The New Criterion)
Why do otherwise decent people embrace ideologies that entail the killing of millions? What is the appeal that made so many people, especially intellectuals, support Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao? Whittaker Chambers argued that if we are to combat the most monstrous evil in the history of the world—totalitarianism, as invented in the twentieth century by Lenin—we must understand what draws some people to it and makes others incapable of countering, or even understanding, its appeal.
What I Learned from Older Women
(New York: Crown Publishers, 2000)
Marie Brenner, who has penned the amazing, gripping investigative thriller The Insider among other books, put together one book I found rather misleading. Ostensibly, Great Dames is, according to the subtitle, about women she learned from. A few chapters into the book, however, we readers realize she did not know many of them very well. In fact, she relies heavily on anecdotes from others and from her subjects’s memoirs. Diana Trilling is a good example, and Brenner’s treatment of Whittaker Chambers a good case in point.