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Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTonight on TDS, Lynne Olson, author/historian, Citizens of London; and on TCR,  Garry Wills, author/historian, Bomb Power.

sausage grinder of snark

I was instantly wary when I saw that one of the highlighted endorsements on Lynne Olson's booksite was by Chris Matthews, but I suppose I shouldn't hold that against her. The book is Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, and Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review (despited getting her gender wrong):

The Anglo-American alliance in WWII was not inevitable, writes former Baltimore Sun correspondent Olson (Troublesome Young Men). In this ingenious history, he emphasizes the role of three prominent Americans living in London who helped bring it about. Best known was Edward R. Murrow, head of CBS radio's European bureau after 1937. His pioneering live broadcasts during the blitz made him a celebrity, and Olson portrays a man who worked tirelessly to win American support for Britain. Most admirable of the three was John Winant, appointed American ambassador in 1941. A true humanitarian, he skillfully helped craft the British-American alliance. And most amusing was Averell Harriman, beginning a long public service career. In 1941, FDR sent the wealthy, ambitious playboy to London to oversee Lend-Lease aid. He loved the job, but made no personal sacrifices, living a luxurious life as he hobnobbed with world leaders and carried on an affair with Churchill's daughter-in-law. Olson, an insightful historian, contrasts the idealism of Winant and Murrow with the pragmatism of Harriman. But all three men were colorful, larger-than-life figures, and Olson's absorbing narrative does them justice.

In addition to Amazon& B&N (Amazon has this as one of Feb.'s Best Books), I found an NPR interview (with a different excerpt than what's on her booksite) and an assortment of "I liked this book" reviews. Maybe the lack of high-profile reviewers explains why the booksites "Reviews" page is really full of those celebrity journalist/ endorsements, not actual reviews. But it turns out that Tweety's has the best summary, so that explains that.

Probably a good book, probably a decent interview.

Historian/theologianGarry Wills has written a whole lot of books (and other things), and has an assortment of awards which includes the Pulitzer. Also, the Catholic Leaguehates him, always a plus.

His latest book is Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State. I found a bunch of reviews, several of which have some quibbles. The B&N review, written by a Columbia Professor of History,  finds some factual as well as logical errors. And actually that's one of the best reviews, but it's way too long to post (& I'm running too late to clip-and-summarize). So here's Publisher's Weekly (Amazon, B&N):

The demands of nuclear weapons policy have poisoned the American polity, according to this unfocused jeremiad. Historian Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg) argues that the project of deploying and defending against nuclear weapons transformed America into a "national security state" mired in permanent semi-emergency, with swollen military forces, unaccountable spy agencies, a Byzantine apparatus of state secrecy, and an empire of overseas bases. Worse, he writes, the aura of "bomb power" that presidents gleaned from their prerogative to initiate nuclear holocaust made the presidency into an "American monarch{y}" that sneers at constitutional restraints. Wills's is a provocative and at times insightful analysis of how presidential status and mystique hypertrophied alongside the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, it's a rickety framework for his scattershot account of foreign and security policy in the nuclear age, which meanders from the Manhattan Project to George Bush's "war on terror" to gay marriage. It's often hard to see the connections he insinuates between nuclear obsessions and misdeeds like the 1954 CIA-organized coup in Guatemala. Wills's conception of "bomb power" is a weak explanatory principle for this sketchy take on post-war American history. (Feb.)

(Wanna buy the books? Try indiebound or

Originally posted to TiaRachel on Wed Mar 03, 2010 at 07:55 PM PST.


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