The Times of My Life: And My Life with the Times

Max Frankel, Author
Max Frankel, Author Random House (NY) $29.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-679-44824-2
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Compact Disc - 978-1-885608-23-9
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-885608-24-6
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-385-33498-3
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From his childhood escape from Nazi Germany to confidential encounters with presidents Johnson and Nixon to his wife's struggle with brain cancer, Frankel (a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former executive editor of the New York Times) captures a remarkable life in vigorous, engaging prose. Frankel explains that his painful exile from Germany and his refugee status led him to the journalistically useful trait of ""detachment."" Although he acknowledges cozy relationships with establishment figures like Henry Kissinger, he demonstrates his integrity by admitting, among other things, that in the early stages of the Vietnam conflict he ""became, for too long, just a weather vane registering the winds of Washington's false optimism."" Frankel started at the Times as a stringer in 1949, while still a Columbia sophomore. Eventually, foreign bureau stints in Khrushchev's Moscow and Castro's Cuba led to positions as the Times's Washington correspondent and then bureau chief. Despite divulging off-the-record comments from the likes of Nixon, Kissinger and Dean Rusk, Frankel shows that his vaunted diplomatic skills were put to their ultimate test not by such power players but instead when he replaced A.M. Rosenthal as executive editor of the Times in 1986. He sparked controversy by updating the paper's tone--for instance, putting an article about rising hemlines on the front page. Frankel's impact on the Times--particularly his struggle for fair hiring and promotion practices--makes for absorbing reading. But more compelling is Frankel's quintessentially American success story--that of a young, wide-eyed reporter who becomes a professional witness to the most crucial events of the 20th century. (Mar.)
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