Whittaker Chambers: A Biography

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Random House Publishing Group, Apr 20, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 656 pages
2 Reviews
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--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. This biography is rich in startling new information about Chambers's 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 magazine, 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 a prelude to the memorable events that began in August 1948, when Chambers testified against Alger Hiss in the spy case that changed America. Whittaker Chambers goes far beyond all previous accounts of the Hiss case, re-creating its improbably twists and turns, and disentangling the motives that propelled a vivid cast of characters in unpredictable directions.

A rare conjunction of exacting scholarship and narrative art, Whittaker Chambers is a vivid tapestry of 20th century history.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - kerns222 - LibraryThing

Tanenhaus shows Chambers to be a mess, but he does so sympathetically in the beginning and then, as the book proceeds to the trial and beyond, heroically. Nixon comes off as only he could and Hiss as ... Read full review


User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A sympathetic full-length portrait of a man best known for making Alger Hiss and Richard Nixon famous. In 1948, Whittaker Chambers was a self-confessed spy for the Soviet Union turned rabid anti ... Read full review



Sifting the Evidence
Sorrow Songs
Fetching a Bone
Pure Dynamite
I Can Make That Fellow President
A Man Named Crosley
I Could Not Do Otherwise
The Means of Justice
The Pumpkin Papers
Unclean Unclean
Rich Finds
The Woodstock
Alger and Priscilla
Lucifer vs the Serpent
The American Jitters
Blind Analysis
Eleven Words
Public Recluse
Close Calls
The Last Path
The Witness Is Gone
Sifting the Evidence
Select Bibliography

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About the author (2011)

Sam Tanenhaus was the editor of both The New York Times Book Review and the Week in Review section of The New York Times. From 1999 to 2004 he was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he wrote often on politics. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications. Tanenhaus’s book Whittaker Chambers: A Biography won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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