On Dupont Circle: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Progressives Who Shaped Our World.

James Srodes, Author
James Srodes. Counterpoint, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-58243-716-3
Paperback - 325 pages - 978-1-61902-165-5
Open Ebook - 337 pages - 978-1-61902-093-1
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Biographer Srodes (Allen Dulles: Master of Spies) chronicles 12 famous Progressives who during the 1910s, early in their careers, frequently gathered together in Washington, D.C.'s posh Dupont Circle neighborhood. He aims to show how a tight-knit but competitive group—which included, alongside the Roosevelts, Walter Lippmann, Felix Frankfurter, and three Dulles siblings—helped reshape politics and society, starting with the negotiations that followed World War I. The Paris Peace Conference disappointed Progressive idealism, however, and Srodes's focus on foreign affairs wavers as Allen Dulles and Louise Bryant, among others, throw themselves into hedonism. Srodes is refreshingly unafraid to question his subjects' motives, showing how old-school political patronage could prevail over the Progressive value placed on expertise. The disparity between their mostly affluent backgrounds and lifestyles and those of most Americans is evident but largely unexplored, though Srodes does illuminate how interactions between an astonishing few could act as catalysts for relationships between nations. Srodes asks if the modern-day United States measures up to the Progressives' commitment to change, but his suggestion that this compelling epic is uniquely American does a disservice to its broader human themes. (Aug.)
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