Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

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Random House, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 638 pages
19 Reviews
Nearly half a century after giving the testimony that sent Alger Hiss to prison, Whittaker Chambers remains among the most controversial of twentieth-century Americans, hated by many, revered by others. Whittaker Chambers is the first biography of this complex and enigmatic figure. Drawing on dozens of interviews and on materials from forty archives in the United States and abroad - including still-classified KGB dossiers - Sam Tanenhaus traces the remarkable journey that led Chambers from a sleepy Long Island village to center stage in America's greatest political trial and then, in his last years, to a unique role as the godfather of post-war conservatism. Whittaker Chambers is rich in startling new information about every phase of its subject's varied life: his days as New York's "hottest literary Bolshevik"; his years as a Communist agent and then defector, hunted by the KGB; his conversion to Quakerism; his secret sexual turmoil; his turbulent decade at Time, where he rose from the obscurity of the book-review page to transform the magazine into an oracle of apocalyptic anti-Communism. But all this was merely a prelude to the memorable events that began in August 1948, when Chambers was summoned by a congressional committee to testify about his past as a Communist agent. Reluctantly, he divulged his key part in a spy ring that had penetrated the most sensitive areas of the U.S. government, including the State Department, where one of his accomplices, Alger Hiss, had risen to a senior position. Chamber's allegations, and Hiss's prompt, emphatic denial, held the nation spellbound - and initiated a drama that changed the face of America. Drawing on an array of new sources, includingtranscripts of secret HUAC testimony, Whittaker Chambers goes far beyond all previous accounts of the Hiss case, re-creating its improbable twists and turns, and disentangling the motives that propelled a vivid cast of characters in unpredictable directions.

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Review: Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

User Review  - Don Kaiser - Goodreads

Started out really slow, all this stuff about his Vaudevillian mother and life on Long Island, and offending his professors at Columbia. I almost tossed it aside because it did not get to the Alger ... Read full review

Review: Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

User Review  - Wayne Tripton - Goodreads

Brian Lamb the book monitor of CSPAN interviewed Tanenhaus and I watched when it originally aired. I was so intrigued that I immediately bought a copy. First edition. I read about Chambers and his early twentieth century experiences in New York and how over time he became an American spectacle. Read full review

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About the author (1997)

Biographer and American history scholar Sam Tanenhaus has written such books as Old Greenwich Village, Season of Power, Louis Armstrong: Biography of a Musician, and Whittaker Chamers: A Biography. This last book was nominated for the National Book Award in Nonfiction and the Pulitzer Prize in Biography.

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