Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BC2012: K Blows Top by Peter Carlson

The subtitle explains the cryptic title: "A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist". When Khrushchev visited the United States in 1959, he didn't merely meet with President Eisenhower and return to the USSR. He spent almost two weeks here, sightseeing and being feted by New York City capitalists, Hollywood actors, and an Iowa farmer.

I bought this at Borders in Merrillville, IN when they went out of business last spring. I had just read One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War, a great book by Michael Dobbs about the Cuban Missile Crisis, so my curiosity about the Soviet leader was piqued.

K Blows Top is hilarious and utterly astonishing. I never imagined Khrushchev to be so personable and entertaining. The book demonstrates that he was a consummate politician with the wit and social skills of the best. I found him very interesting and not at all the monster Stalin was. The book also documents Vice President Nixon's visit to the USSR as a prelude and ends on a down note with Khrushchev's return to New York in 1960, when he received a much colder welcome.

This book was a lot of fun to read, like opening a time capsule of late 1950s American popular culture.

   

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