In Search of History, by Theodore H. White
A sweeping tour of the 20th century that no one should miss. This book came out in 1978. My grandmother gave it to me just this past January. I guess it had been sitting on her shelf since 1978. All I can say is: I’m glad she gave it to me. Better late than never.
Teddy White had a fascination with politics and power that probably approached some kind of clinical obsession. We follow him from his early days as a reporter in China, before the outbreak of WWII, and then through the war years in Asia, reconstruction in Europe, and then 60′s and 70′s presidential politics in the US. Throughout, he describes his fascination with the big players: Chiang Kai Check, Mao Tse Tsung, MacArthur, Monnet, Harriman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and his efforts to cultivate relationships with these men.
Obviously he had to get to know them, he was reporting back for Time and other weeklies. But he seems to have been very very eager, for reasons that go beyond the merely professional, to hobnob and get to know these guys. As if he got his personal thrills, his shivers in life, from being around the movers and the shakers. A fascinating self-portrait, because it would seem like the next logical step would be to try to become one of the movers and shakers. And you see him dip his toe in, with advice given here, messages passed there, that go beyond, arguably, the duties of a journalist. But he always backed away, retreating to the safety of his self-avowed journalistic professionalism. A moth playing with a candle fire, fluttering around it, backing away as soon as it feels the heat on its wings.
So you get a double treat here, a great tour of 20th century politics, and a portrait of a very complicated, driven, yet somewhat repressed, personality.