Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gaddis's Kennan bio due out next week

Following a tip from a friend, I see that J.L. Gaddis's biography of Kennan is scheduled to be published by Penguin on Nov. 10. Long in preparation, this should be the definitive biography.
Note to readers: I have a long post in the works and I hope it will be up sometime in the next two or three weeks.


Anonymous said...

after 30 years, it ought to be thorough
Kennan is a great American
a sensitive and brilliant strategist

LFC said...

I too generally admire Kennan. However, his attitudes on some particular issues (e.g. race) I don't find so admirable.

I just took down from the shelf my copy of Anders Stephanson's Kennan and the Art of Foreign Policy
(1989; paperback, 1992) and turning to the chapter "Dark Continents" I find at the opening this:

"...the Third World was for him [Kennan] in the profoundest possible sense a foreign space, wholly lacking in allure and best left to its own no doubt tragic fate." (p.157)

Sometimes this view led him to sensible positions -- e.g. opposition to the Vietnam War -- but other times it probably didn't.

Anyway, I thank you for commenting. You will note that this is one of the probably shrinking number of blogs on which it is possible to comment with complete anonymity and without logging in or any of that stuff.

Anonymous said...

So far I have not seen any rebuttal of Louis Menand's lead idea in his critique of the Gaddis book in The New Yorker that Kennan was in fact "un-American" (a feeling privately expressed once in a letter to his sister 'of a moment' which Menand expands into a thesis) The last time I heard this said, it was by Joe McCarthy, who thought Kennan a 'pinko' for being so interested in Russia. The premise is disingenous, and it is in fact disproved by the rest of the critique and mostly by Gaddis's biography itself as well as Kennan's life work. Kennan's diplomatic prescience and value to America as evidenced throughout his service to the government are only exceeded in value to this country by the philosopical transcendence of his private diaries, partly revealed in "Sketches of a Life" and to be further released in a work edited by Frank Costigliola, targeted for release in 2014. His depth of feeling for his country pervades these writings and leaves no doubt as to his 'Americanism'.
The feeling lingers that critical reviews such as this are more about the reviewer and clever rhetorical device than about the subject reviewed.
Louis: What were you thinking? Read the book again and this time more carefully.

LFC said...

I have not yet read Louis Menand's review so I can't really comment on it now. (I very much doubt, however, that Menand meant what he said to be taken in a McCarthyite way, but, as I say, I have not yet read the piece.)

Nor for that matter have I closely read Kissinger's review of the Gaddis book in the NY Times Book Review, though I have printed it out and it's in my to-read pile.

I have some non-blog-related work to attend to over the next several days, and then I have a long-planned and fairly lengthy post on another subject which I'm hoping to get up by early December (at latest). However, since you have drawn my attention to the Louis Menand piece I'll try to read it tomorrow or the next day and if I have a reaction I will post about it.

Thank you for commenting.