This is a tedious, tiresome, tendentious and fact-bending "history" of China by the undisputed Uriah Heep of American diplomacy. Despite a virtual battalion of research assistants, Uriah comes up with some very strange geographical concepts and errors (example: Annam never was 'the northernmost part of Vietnam' and American soldiers in South Vietnam were not "massing along the Chinese border." But such willful and inept distortions serve the theme of this book. The author wants merely to praise the five great men of the twentieth century: Henry Kissinger, Mao Zedong, Henry Kissinger, Zhou Enlai and Henry Kissinger. There is not a single word -- not one - of criticism in this overlong thesis for Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai or any of their lackeys. Kissinger's slavishness toward the Chinese regime has been for decades an embarrassment to critics of the regime. He is the only diplomat from a major power who came to China on his knees. He was never capable of appreciating the contempt that Zhou and Mao had for him. No doubt this book will very quickly be translated into Chinese and become a best seller in China -- subsidized by the Chinese government if they are as wise as the author insists they are. On China is dedicated by the author to fashion designer Oscar de la Renta in whose home, he tells us, he began writing the book.
This book could not have been worse. Perhaps cutting the entire narrative might have made it better.
He appears to know absolutely nothing that he is writing about. The opening chapter is all totally spurious in its effort to make connections between bongs, marijuana, Berkeley, and Quantum Physics -- it reads like the kind of parody one might think of writing when one is stoned out of his mind.
Let me put it very simply: If, like the author, you believe that Francis Ford Coppola made the movie "American Graffiti," then truly this is the book for you.
If I could play editor, I would reject this book entirely and tell the author not to give up his day job.
Lord how I wish I could get my money back on this one. This book is to history what spray on hair is to cosmetics.
This is a magnificent biography that caps the scholarship of the past two decades of work on Eisenhower and his presidency, placing him firmly and convincingly in the pantheon of the top American chief executives.
Smith manages to dispell some myths about Eisenhower -- such as the false statement that he regretted his appointment of Earl Warren to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at the end of 1953. On the other hand, for a study of such wide scope, some errors and other myths are bound to enter in. Smith writes of the French "surrender" at Dienbienphu, a myth that has been perpetuated over time by American historians and journalists. There was no French surrender at Dienbienphu. The French positions were over run and the fighting ceased. There was no white flag, no surrender. When the French commander radioed to Hanoi that he was being overrun by the enemy, the response was:"Of course you will fight to the end. It is out of the question to run up the white flag after your heroic resistance." A Soviet film crew recreated the battle in the two days after the fall of Dienbienphu and it was widely distributed -- parts even making their way into the PBS Vietnam series. In the filmed version, the French surrender.
After suffering through Peter Straub's "A Dark Matter" I discovered an entirely new idea of what hell must be like. It must be like sitting in the coach section of an American Airlines 767 with Peter Straub seated at the front of that section reading aloud from "A Dark Matter." I can think of absolutely nothing more horrifying. The ineptitude of his prose, the relenteless silliness of his images and descriptions, the brainlessness of his "characters" as Straub's words wander aimlessly over the page in search of a plot. If this was a 7th grade writing exercise, the teacher would ask the child to throw it out and start over. And to think that only one month ago I concluded no one could tell a dumber story with greater ineptitude or more hollow pretense than little John Irving in "Last Night in Twisted River," when along comes Straub to prove me dead wrong. This book is not nearly as frightening or as fun as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Disneyland. And what is most frightening about it is its determination to continue on and on and on with neither plot or purpose as if the author was paid only by the word. The horror, the horror.
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