Synopses & Reviews
Khrushchevs 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducteda surreal extravaganza,” as historian John Lewis Gaddis called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe.
Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the trip, K Blows Top is a work of history that reads like a Vonnegut novel. This cantankerous communists road trip took place against the backdrop of the fifties in capitalist America, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man who possessed the power to incinerate America.
"Although Punch magazine famously commented on the humor of Nikita Khrushchev's desire to visit Disneyland during his 1959 trip to America, Carlson a former writer for the Washington Post, can still mine the tour with hilarious results, due in equal parts to Khrushchev's outsized provocateur personality and the bizarre and thoroughly American reaction to his visit. Numerous secondary players provide comic support: then vice president Richard Nixon's fixations on mano a mano debates with the quicksilver premier; Boston Brahmin and U.N. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Khrushchev's tour guide, who dutifully filed daily analysis of Khrushchev's public tantrums; popular gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, who in a noteworthy example of bad taste attacked Mrs. Khrushchev's attire. A host of other American icons also make appearances: among them Herbert Hoover, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra. Although Carlson's focuses on the comic, there are insights into Khrushchev's personality, many provided by his son Sergei, now a respected professor at Brown University, illuminating the method in Khrushchev's madness. All in all, in Carson's hands the cold war is a surprisingly laughing matter. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This hilarious account of Khrushchevs 1959 U.S. tour is also a supremely entertaining evocation of the history and atmosphere of Cold War America
About the Author
Peter Carlson is a former feature writer and columnist for The Washington Post, where he wrote the weekly column The Magazine Reader.” The author of Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, and a co-authorwith Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, among othersof The Gospel According to ESPN, he lives in Rockville, MD.