Albright, Castro, Nixon, and Zhou Enlai

It seems to be world affairs week at the city’s senior library which has survived 1.73 centuries of world affairs. Sitting cheek by jowl amongst the new arrivals when we went in to see what’s been unpacked lately were Madeleine Albright, Fidel Castro, Zhou Enlai, and Richard Nixon. All but the Albright book are biographies, with the Nixon being the heaviest. (No cracks about the former Secretary of State’s stately figure, thank you) Albright has taken the upcoming regime change in Washington as an opportunity to let readers know about the considerable cleaning and patching that needs to be done after eight years of more rambunctious diplomacy than she likes to see. She had help on the book from Bill Woodward. We all do remember that her father was Condoleeza Rice’s mentor, don’t we?

Zhou Enlai, whom those of us of a certain age knew as Chou En Lai, was the wily Chinese premier who survived the madness of Mao and engineered the meeting with Richard Nixon that would eventually make possible Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. The bio is by Gao Wenqian who is also something of a survivor. His first version of this book, published in Hong Kong, was immediately banned in the People’s Republic where blemish-free hagiography is the preferred form. The author is now living safely in the U.S. where he can say whatever he wants unless he’s addressing the Modern Language Association.

The Castro book is by El Jefe himself. Well, with a little help from Ignacio Ramonet. The Generalissimo has been a bit under the weather, and it takes considerable time to write those two hour speeches that have made his regime so interesting for Cuban audiences, so he can be excused for turning, as Mrs. Albright did, to a professional scribe. Will the revolutionary warrior be signing copies of this nuanced, heartwarming memoir at the upcoming convention of the Modern Language Association? Of course not. He’s still non gratus with the current admininistration. But their days are numbered. Don’t miss the picture of him cozying up to humanitarian and world viewer Noam Chomsky.

What more can be said about Richard Nixon? Whatever it is takes 1152 pages for biographer Conrad Black. And who is Conrad Black? He’s the former press baron and member of the House of Lords who was convicted on multiple counts of fraud in U.S. courts and sentenced to more than six years in the Big House which seems to have given him lots of time for research. There is a sort of happy unity in subject and author here, isn’t there? But, I have to tell you, Richard Nixon is one fascinating subject. There can never be too many books about this most American, most Californian, most twentieth century, most unhappy fella. He’s every bit as interesting as Castro and Chou. And way more interesting than Secretary Albright.

-Nemo Wolfe

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Published in: on February 8, 2008 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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