Marvin Kalb and Harry Reasoner: Journalists Write

I read a book written by each; their only similarity is that they were short, which explains why I could read them both in a total of three evenings.

Some months ago, I reported that I had picked up one of Marvin Kalb’s first books, which reported on his travels through the Soviet Union in the 1950s, a fascinating tale of places being visited by few, if any, Americans.  In 1994, almost forty years later, he wrote a book on a very different subject, The Nixon Memo.  Former President Nixon was following his inevitable nature and trying to restore himself to a position of importance and respect.  He succeeded by writing a memorandum to President Clinton, explaining the importance of having American support for Boris Yeltsin’s government in Russia, and the need to provide millions of dollars to support his efforts at capitalizing the country, with the threat of a retreat to dictatorship if Yeltsin did not succeed.  In addition, Nixon (who made sure that the memorandum would be leaked to the press) traveled to Russia, met with the president and wrote a number of op-ed pieces.  Rather than simply writing him off, Clinton listened and respected this elder statesman, now nearing 80.  Of course, Yeltsin did not really succeed, Nixon was to a great extent wrong in his analysis, and the world didn’t end with a new Soviet dictatorship (of course history has not played itself out yet), but the Kalb book is the story of Nixon, formerly the enemy of the press, used the media to assist him in gaining access, publicity and respectability, and how successful he was in doing so.  It is a fascinating study, by one of Nixon’s former “enemies”, whose private home phones were illegally tapped and who was apparently feared as a possible Romanian spy (if you can believe it).

Harry Reasoner, no longer living, was a TV newscaster, and who knew that in 1946, he wrote a novel, Tell Me About Women.  I was looking for light reading, something I could take to the gym.  I wanted it to be a short book, and this 180 page novelette fit the bill.  I expected nothing, but was surprised to find a delightful story of a young college student/journalist, waiting to get in the army in 1942, who married his old flame (on her rebound, he not knowing that she was pregnant by her married professor/lover), and whose relationship (even after the miscarriage) was threatened by his absence when he was inducted into the army and sent away for basic training.  The book was serious, light, humorous, and (almost) credible.  A very contemporary book for something published more than sixty years ago, showing that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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