Iron Curtain

11.26.12

When Gawker is Spot-On...

Hamilton Nolan takes a hammer to the Max Frankel's New York Times Book Review of Iron Curtain.

The review is by Max Frankel, who is, his bio helpfully explains, a "former executive editor of The Times, [who] reported for many years from Moscow and Eastern Europe." Two things are subtly established by this single sentence, in NYT-ese: 1) Max Frankel's opinions are not to be challenged, and 2) Max Frankel knows what the fuck he is talking about here, see point 1. The notable thing about this review is not that Frankel (mildly) pans Applebaum's book, but the reasons he gives: "Her evidence, once again drawn from archival research and some survivor interviews, is overwhelming and convincing." Great! "But the heart of her story is hardly news." Hm.

Let us now pause and ask Max Frankel, a career newsman, a relevant rhetorical question: is the purpose of a book like Applebaum's to break news? Not necessarily. Not at all. The purpose of a newspaper is to break news. The purpose of a sweeping book recounting an ugly period of world history is to... recount an ugly period of world history. Hopefully in an interesting fashion. But Max Frankel, it seems, is under the impression that he is reviewing a newspaper dispatch:

David's counter-review here.