Finks: Book summary and reviews of Finks by Joel Whitney

Finks

How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers

by Joel Whitney

Finks by Joel Whitney

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Book Summary

Finks demonstrates how the good-versus-bad CIA is a false divide, and that the cultural Cold Warriors again and again used anti-Communism as a lever to spy relentlessly on leftists, and indeed writers of all political inclinations, and thereby pushed U.S. democracy a little closer to the Soviet model of the surveillance state.

When news broke that the CIA had colluded with literary magazines to produce cultural propaganda throughout the Cold War, a debate began that has never been resolved. The story continues to unfold, with the reputations of some of America's best-loved literary figures - including Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, and Richard Wright - tarnished as their work for the intelligence agency has come to light.

Finks is a tale of two CIAs, and how they blurred the line between propaganda and literature. One CIA created literary magazines that promoted American and European writers and cultural freedom, while the other toppled governments, using assassination and censorship as political tools. Defenders of the "cultural" CIA argue that it should have been lauded for boosting interest in the arts and freedom of thought, but the two CIAs had the same undercover goals, and shared many of the same methods: deception, subterfuge and intimidation.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Another odd episode steps out from the Cold War's shadows. Riveting." - Kirkus

"Listen to this book, because it talks in a very clear way about what has been silenced."- John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing and winner of the Man Booker Prize

"Joel Whitney vividly brings to life the early days of the Cold War, when the CIA's Ivy League ties were strong, and key American literary figures were willing to secretly do the bidding of the nation's spymasters." - James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War

"A deep look at that scoundrel time when America's most sophisticated and enlightened literati eagerly collaborated with our growing national security state. Finks is a timely moral reckoning - one that compels all those who work in the academic, media and literary boiler rooms to ask some troubling questions of themselves - namely, what, if anything, have they done to resist the subversion of free thought?" - David Talbot, founder of Salon and author of The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America's Secret Government

"The marriage of politics and literature is always messy and seldom boring. Intrusive governments are invariably unimaginative and plotting writers are hilariously ineffective. The whole thing makes for tortured drama, and Joel Whitney is a savvy dramatist who knows perfectly how to juice intrigue!" - Ilan Stavans, author of Gabriel García Márquez: The Early Years

"The CIA's covert financial support of highbrow art and fiction may seem like a quaint, even endearing, chapter in its otherwise grim history of coups, assassinations, and torture... an illuminating read and a cautionary tale about the potential costs - political and artistic - of accommodating power." - Ben Wizner, Director of Speech, Privacy and Technology Project

The information about Finks shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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More Information

More Information

Joel Whitney, manager of arts and cultural programs at Brooklyn Public Library, is a cofounder and editor at large of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, Boston Review, The San Francisco Chronicle, Dissent, Salon, NPR, New York Magazine and The Sun. With photographer Brett Van Ort, he co-wrote the 2013 TED Talks ebook on landmine eradication, Minescape. His poetry has appeared in The Paris Review, The Nation, and Agni. His Salon essay on The Paris Review and the Congress for Cultural Freedom was a Notable in the 2013 Best American Essays.

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