Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars

Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars : The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy

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For decades, a great number of Americans saw Alger Hiss as an innocent victim of McCarthyism-a distinguished diplomat railroaded by an ambitious Richard Nixon. And even as the case against Hiss grew over time, his dignified demeanor helped create an aura of innocence that outshone the facts in many minds. Now G. Edward White deftly draws together the countless details of Hiss's life-from his upper middle-class childhood in Baltimore and his brilliant success at Harvard to his later career as a self-made martyr to McCarthyism-to paint a fascinating portrait of a man whose life was devoted to perpetuating a lie. White catalogs the evidence that proved Hiss's guilt, from Whittaker Chambers's famous testimony, to copies of State Department documents typed on Hiss's typewriter, to Allen Weinstein's groundbreaking investigation in the 1970s. The author then explores the central conundrums of Hiss's life: Why did this talented lawyer become a Communist and a Soviet spy? Why did he devote so much of his life to an extensive public campaign to deny his espionage? And how, without producing any new evidence, did he convince many people that he was innocent? White offers a compelling analysis of Hiss's behavior in the face of growing evidence of his guilt, revealing how this behavior fit into an ongoing pattern of denial and duplicity in his life. The story of Alger Hiss is in part a reflection of Cold War America-a time of ideological passions, partisan battles, and secret lives. It is also a story that transcends a particular historical era-a story about individuals who choose to engage in espionage for foreign powers and the secret worlds they choose to conceal. In White's skilled hands, the life of Alger Hiss comes to illuminate both of those more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.1 x 22.9mm | 430.92g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195182553
  • 9780195182552

Review quote

"A great read, a real page-turner. This is the first of the books about Alger Hiss fully to accept that he was a Soviet spy. White moves on to ask the fascinating question-if Hiss was guilty of everything he was charged with (and more), why did he spend his post-prison decades steadfastly proclaiming his innocence? The answer seems to be that this was how Hiss had dealt with all the major crises of his earlier life. And this book explains what they were in lucid and compelling prose." -Stanley N. Katz, Director, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University "An extremely valuable and much needed contribution to the history of the Hiss-Chambers Case. G. Edward White provides a nuanced biographical study of how Hiss dealt with various challenges in his life and how his steadfast insistence on his innocence despite all of the damning evidence fits into that pattern. White combines this psychological study with a discerning analysis of the evidence available at the time of the trial as well as that coming to light subsequently along with an insightful review of the literature on the case. White's Alger Hiss's Looking Glass Wars bids to join Weinstein's Perjury and Tanenhaus's Whittaker Chambers as one of the indispensable books on the Hiss-Chambers Case." -John Earl Haynes, co-author of In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage and Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America "Should be the final and definitive history of the famous case. Brilliantly written and massively researched, White's deeply understanding analysis of Hiss's obsessive, life-long and at times almost successful efforts to repudiate the charge of treason should convince all but those to whom his innocence has become a matter of dogma."-Louis Auchincloss "A significant contribution to a subject that continues to fascinate Americans.... White presents an Alger Hiss with some depth and significance, a consummate spy who was able to maintain the facade of innocence for nearly half of his life."-New York Sun "If you accept Hiss's guilt, as most historians now do, you will profit from G. Edward White's supplementary speculations about why, after prison, that serene and charming man sacrificed his marriage, exploited a son's love and abused the trust of fervent supporters to wage a 42-year struggle for a vindication that could never be honestly gained."-Max Frankel, The New York Times Book Review "An intriguing portrait of an enigmatic man who stood center stage during the most electrifying moments of the Cold War."-Library Journal "What White accomplishes in this innovative and brilliant new book is not yet another attempt to show Hiss's guilt, but rather an examination of how Hiss was both a gifted Soviet agent and 'a successful publicizer of his innocence,' able to convince so many people.... It is the achievement of G. Edward White to have provided the final unmasking of Alger Hiss, and, one hopes, put an end once and for all to the campaign waged on the traitor's behalf."-Ronald Radosh, National Review "An extraordinary book, packed with information and fresh insights. Part detective story, part cultural history, part psychodrama-I couldn't put it down."-Cass Sunstein, author of Republic.Com "White's painstakingly careful demolition of Hiss is not a casual read, but it will inveigle, and probably convince, most who are conversant with the case and its decades-long afterlife."-Booklist "With his portrait of the man himself-as well as supporters, for whom almost no evidence was convincing-Mr. White has written the best book ever about Alger Hiss." - Michael J. Ybarra, The Wall Street Journal "With its incisive analysis and readability, this is a worthwhile addition to the vast Hiss literature."-Publishers Weekly "In this inclusive, impressive, deeply pondered and finely spun study, G. Edward White has provided a definitive analysis of the Hiss case. Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars should provide a welcome close to the controversy over this historic imbroglio."-Washington Timesshow more

About G. Edward White

G. Edward White is David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. His books include Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self and several other works of biography and law. His father-in-law, John F. Davis, served as Alger Hiss's counsel in a 1948 hearing of the House Un-American Activities more

Rating details

27 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 33% (9)
4 22% (6)
3 41% (11)
2 4% (1)
1 0% (0)
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