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JFK's Pulitzer

May 17, 2007 |  7:10 am

 

1957_0517_kirsch

1957_0517_kennedy Times book critic Robert R. Kirsch is less than impressed with the Pulitzer awarded to Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for "Profiles in Courage, calling it "a rather astonishing choice."

"Courage" was an interesting book and well worth reading, Kirsch said. "But the Pulitzer Prize? What were the judges doing? Where were they when Bruce Catton's 'This Hallowed Ground' was published?"

"There was no more scholarship in Sen. Kennedy's book than one would find in a memorandum researched by one of his assistants or by a harried clerk in the Library of Congress. There was no more style than an editorial writer achieves on a dull day. Perhaps the judges were bemused by the sight of a senator writing a book and decided to award an A for effort."

Ouch.

In college, which was the last time I delved into Catton's civil war histories, I found them absolutely unreadable: thick volumes of impenetrable prose.  And Kirsch failed to mention that Catton had already received a Pulitzer for "A Stillness at Appomattox." Don't take my word for it: Read the opening of "Hallowed Ground" courtesy of Amazon.com.

Now let's have some fun and see Kirsch had anything to say about, oh, how about Richard Nixon's 1962 book "My Six Crises"?

Hm. For some reason the review was turned over to veteran Times book critic Marvin Seid. His verdict: "Six Crises" is a story told by an unapologetic partisan; it will not, of course, please everyone. But here is a story no one else could tell. Few who read it will be able to deny that the Nixon who emerges from its pages is a man of dedication, intelligence, political skill and--above all--guts."

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