Alger Hiss and the Battle for History
Susan Jacoby
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)

Susan Jacoby is a gifted writer. She is deft and light. As a grandchild of Whittaker Chambers (who was another gifted writer, if rarely so light), I looked forward to Alger Hiss and the Battle for History. How would she weigh in on the Hiss case?

Her latest book begins with a clever foil. She has her own mother ask of this book about the Hiss case, “Who cares about that anymore?” We should, Ms. Jacoby holds. People today need to avoid the “swift eclipses of historical memory” too common in American culture. They need to care about the Hiss case. Much of today’s fissured politics formed back then.

Ms. Jacoby writes in a conversational, even chatty tone that makes reading this slim volume a pleasure. She probably had in mind a book along the lines of the late Richard Rorty‘s Achieving Our Country (1998). However, at critical moments, she appears not to have thought through or stuck to her mission. The results are disastrous…


(Original: Washington Times)

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