The trip took place in the 50s, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man with the power to incinerate America.
©2009 Peter Carlson; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"This hilarious account of Khrushchev's 1959 U.S. tour is also a supremely entertaining evocation of the history and atmosphere of Cold War America." (Publisher's Weekly)
I don't often post a wordy review. So when I do, I really felt it was important!
Hilarious, scary, and insightful! And striking that most people really only remember Khrushchev banging his shoe at the United Nations. His tour of the United States, an accident of a communication omission, was the largest, greatest media event of its time. And thanks to the author's research, including meetings with his son Sergei, Susan Eisenhower along with his initial access to archives of media material which sparked his interest, the story feels very complete, peeking behind the scenes at nearly every point.
A good, clear narration does not overdo the accents, and the author's ability to use metaphors both of his own and the many hilarious ones (often involving comparing whatever event happens to occur to sports) from the media of the time brought a smile to my face many times. But most of all, Mr. K himself steals the show, whose humor, anecdotes, blow-ups, outrageous, emotional, scary, and delightful behavior could, with little alteration elsewhere, engross nearly any reader in rapt attention.
Eisenhower is ever so serious, hardly a humorous character, perhaps more befitting a man who could destroy the world. And if this were going on today, perhaps I would want to see his level head rather than Mr. K's - there's no doubt, in reading this book, that it was a frightening time. Nixon was closest in character to K's in many ways, and how they loathed each other! Georgy Malenkov's embarrassment at K's actions bleeds through wonderfully, and a host of personalities from Marylin Monroe to Roswell Garst, an Iowa corn farmer who alone could truly outmatch Mr. K's attention grabbing make the book so much more in the end, however!
Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.
This book is worthwhile. It's a hoot and at the same time historically informative. That's rare. I remember when Mr. K came to the U.S. for this visit. I was just a kid. Carlson's book stirred memories of my family reading about Khrushchev waving to a crowd of poor people waiting to see him at an airport while ignoring a group of rich standing closer by. We were lower middle class and my dad worked in a factory that made heavy equipment. Consequently, my family liked reading that and warmed to him. Mr. K came to charm us, like an old Russian uncle with a talent for clowning, and to make us feel more at ease with Soviet communism. He knew how to endear himself with rough humor because he'd used that talent to survive Stalin. Listen to the book and see how much he resented the U.S. government preaching to him on the glories of capitalism, and how much a Marxist true believer he genuinely was. Read how hurt he was when he could not go to Disneyland (because his body guard couldn't guarantee his security there). He actually cried a little. Khrushchev wanted to meet and talk to Americans, so he sometimes snuck away from his guardians to do it. He snuck out onto a street in California one morning, for example, and posed for pictures with passersby who recognized him. When he left after about ten days there was an overall positive impression of him in my house. Unfortunately he spoiled it all a few months later when he came back like an ogre, banging his shoe on a desk at the U.N., trying to rally Third World countries against us, spitting out threats over U2's spying on the Soviet Union. I remember those events, too, and how we all went back to our original negative impression of him. Labeling these two visits bizarre is not exaggeration, yet they actually happened. Get the book.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
We come so close so often merely from misunderstanding. This book is an excellent study in how America can break down the defenses of our enemies while our government can build them right back up. It sickens me to think that our U-2 blunder stretched the cold war by another 25 years and hardened the Soviet position.
This is a GREAT book that I am so glad was written. Well presented too.
There's a lot of 5-star reviews here that do a pretty good job of conveying the good parts of the book. I enjoyed it and I recommend it.
That being said, I can't call it a must-read. The story is entertaining but not really laugh-out-loud funny, and not must-know history. If you're looking for a fun, true story, go ahead.
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