Taking on the world : Joseph and Stewart Alsop, guardians of the American century

by Robert W. Merry

Hardcover, 1996




New York : Viking, 1996.


In 1948 the column-writing Alsop brothers produced an article for the Saturday Evening Post, then the country's preeminent weekly magazine. Its title: "Must America Save the World?" Their answer was a resounding yes. Indeed, Joseph and Stewart Alsop were there in those heady postwar years when the country's foreign-policy elite created what became known as the American Century. As men of words, they served as confidants of and cheerleaders for the men of deeds, who came largely from the country's patrician class. The Alsop brothers were themselves sons of this class. Theodore Roosevelt was the brothers' great-uncle. Eleanor Roosevelt was their mother's first cousin. They grew up with members of this Anglo-Saxon elite, went to school with them, socialized with them. And they threw the considerable weight of their column behind the efforts of these statesmen to refashion the world. Writing four times a week, they appeared in nearly two hundred newspapers; their work also graced the pages of the major magazines of the time. Thus, they wielded immense influence throughout the nation from the victory in World War II to the defeat in Vietnam. Stewart was a political analyst of rare acumen, while Joe, his older brother, was a curmudgeon with an aristocratic bearing and a biting wit. He once likened a dinner at Lyndon Johnson's to "going to an opera in which one man sings all the parts." He was a friend and confidant of John Kennedy, a teacher of Washington ways to Jackie Kennedy. When he called people in the highest echelons of officialdom, they responded. In Taking On the World, Robert W. Merry, a Washington insider himself, has fashioned an intricate and fascinating combination of biography and narrative history. As Mr. Merry puts it, "Within the lifetime of the Alsop brothers the country was remade. And its remaking illuminates their careers, just as their careers illuminate the American Century." Robert Merry casts brilliant light on these two remarkable men, and on one of the most tumultuous periods of the country's history.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member AnneliM
Excellent double biography of the Alsop brothers and their world


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