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Schlesinger

The Imperial Historian
Narrated by: Norman Dietz
Length: 18 hrs and 41 mins
4 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (1917-2007), known today as the architect of John F. Kennedy's presidential legacy - and the myth of Camelot - blazed an extraordinary path from Harvard University to wartime London to the West Wing. The son of a pioneering historian - and a two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner in his own right - Schlesinger redefined the art of presidential biography. A Thousand Days, his best-selling record of the Kennedy administration, remains immensely influential and has cemented Schlesinger's place as one of the nation's greatest political image makers.

In this vivid account of Schlesinger's life and career, biographer Richard Aldous draws on oral history, rarely seen archival documents, and the official Schlesinger papers to craft an invaluable portrait of a brilliant and controversial historian who framed America's rise to global empire. Schlesinger promises to transform our understanding of one of the key figures of the 20th-century American intellectual elite.

©2017 Richard Aldous (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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  • Judy Hanks
  • San Anselmo, CA, United States
  • 07-02-19

Pronunciation of some names was very distracting

If the content had been less interesting, I probably would have returned the book. The narrators pronunciation of many names, especially Schlesinger, drove me to distraction.

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Reader appalling.

Unreadable as a consequence of the reader. Truly unfortunate. Could not get past the first chapter. I will just read the book but as an avid Audible fan, this was shockingly bad.

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Court Historian, Gadfly, or Serious Academic?

To be fair, I have always enjoyed and respected the work of Schlesinger but there is always the lingering sense that he clung to politics because in a sense he was a star-struck boy until late middle-age. I was always interested in what changed this ivory tower intellectual into a court historian of sorts, and it really struck me that what stood out, even amid his precocity, was his somewhat immature idealization of figures of glamor and authority. Even in youth, the author makes the point that Schlesinger was a passionate fan of films and it seems fair to wonder if his lifelong adoration of JFK and RFK aren't more evidence of his attraction to them as stars of the political world.


I don't want to push that thesis too far because Schlesinger was a passionate and lifelong liberal, seeing FDR as the apotheosis of effective leadership and he worked on the campaigns of Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 as well as serving as a public intellectual after the deaths of the Kennedy brothers, but nothing before or after working in the White House ever seems to have been as fulfilling. Aldous lays out a fair case for Schlesinger as an intellectual but there is more than a hint of regret for what might have been. Schlesinger while not a one dimensional figure is also not one that I can wholly admire. I think he was out of his depth when it came to working in Kennedy's Administration and I wonder if there might have been some sense of recognition of that. The passage about bringing up the state of the White House tennis courts as JFK grappled with the Civil Rights crises in Birmingham and beyond is a poignant example of the clear disconnect between them. Also the squabbling with Ted Sorensen over whose contributions are more important seems kind of pathetic.

But all told, I enjoyed this book except for one thing--the narration. Although Dietz has a pleasant enough voice, though not one of my favorites, his frequent mispronunciations set my teeth on edge. Also, there is a metronomic quality to the reading that can be annoying. While I won't avoid books that are narrated by him, I will look for alternative editions where possible.