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Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
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1952-2000

A-JournalsTo say that Arthur Schlesinger was one of the 20th century's great social and political gadabouts would be a gross understatement. Schlesinger, noted historian, valued political adviser to JFK, and cultural critic, knew everyone and everything that went on in America during his lengthy career. Journals weighs in on Marilyn Monroe and the Monroe Doctrine, Richard Nixon and Angie Dickinson, Bush v. Gore, Lauren Bacall, Jesse Jackson, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, and Norman Mailer. And in this brick of a tome, which began as 8,000 pages of notes, Schlesinger once again brings his worldly, occasionally snarky (his dislike for Nixon was legendary, and he didn't care much for LBJ or Jimmy Carter, either), and highly eclectic perspective to the events that shaped the second half of the "American Century."
Penguin. 894 pages. $40. ISBN: 1594201420

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"In early 2007, Schlesinger died as he had lived: at work on a book (the second volume of his memoirs), engaged in the battles of the present (he was a fan of Hardball with Chris Matthews) and out on the town (he was at a Manhattan restaurant on the night he was fatally stricken). ... This much, at least, seems safe to predict: It will be a long time before we see another collection of journals as rich, as fascinating and as illuminating as Schlesinger's." Jon Meacham

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Schlesinger's sometimes stirring, occasionally sad, and often sardonic jottings form a labor-intensive public works project for his fellow historians and biographers. They must now revise and extend the biographies of 10 presidents, plus sundry other pols, literary lights, and the dramatis personae of People magazine." Martin F. Nolan

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Throughout Journals, a deeply revelatory and no-holds-barred tour de force tome, Schlesinger champions his friends and slays his enemies. Edited by his sons Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (both distinguished scholars in their own right), the wily Ã(c)minence grise shines radiantly through all of these pages, with occasional plunges into the taboo zone." Douglas Brinkley

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"It's hard not to like a book that expounds on Marilyn Monroe on one page and the Monroe Doctrine on the next. When Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. ruminates on the realm of hemispheric affairs, the transition from one Monroe to the other is seamless, as is the slide from Bosnia to Bianca Jagger." Maureen Dowd

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This arch, irresistibly revealing book manages to be both showstopping and doorstopping, what with its vast range of subject matter and unfettered private sniping. ... The tone of the journals is sharply incisive, frequently scathing and unburdened by any need to emphasize moral balance." Janet Maslin

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 of 5 Stars
"A rich seam of anecdotes and boldfaced names runs throughout Journals but the whole exercise seems to have been regarded by its author as something of a chore. ... Somehow, the thought of Schlesinger peering avidly through the window at 'the unforgettable profile' [of Richard Nixon, his neighbor for a time in Manhattan] seems a bit beneath him, but Journals remains a valuable social and historical document of the last half of what Time magazine once hopefully dubbed the American Century." Mackenzie Carpenter

Critical Summary

Over a career that spanned more than half a century, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner-The Age of Jackson (1945) and the biography A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965; it also won the National Book Award)-Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., knew as much about the inner workings of government and society as any person alive. Schlesinger's sons, both scholars, have painstakingly pared their father's prodigious output (critics comment that the year 1999 is, oddly, missing from the final product, though Schlesinger died in 2007) into a document that should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the social and political forces that drove post-World War II America. Journals is an important artifact, a "moving and monumental 48-year chronicle" (New York Times), and an insider's playbook to a rich historical period.