Excerpt from K Blows Top by Peter Carlson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

K Blows Top

A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist

by Peter Carlson

K Blows Top by Peter Carlson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2009, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2010, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
K Blows Top

Khrushchev’s first meal in America was a sumptuous lunch at Blair House, the official presidential guest residence—fillet of beef with truffles, potatoes, string beans, and a Charlotte Russe praline with raspberry sauce. He was just finishing when he received his first visitor—Henry Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to the United Nations and the man Ike had selected to be Khrushchev’s tour guide on his odyssey across America.

Few men on earth had less in common: Khrushchev was a short, pudgy, uneducated Russian peasant who’d climbed to power by tenacity and brutality; Lodge was a tall, thin, Harvard-educated Boston Brahmin who’d been born into America’s aristocracy, scion of one of the families immortalized in an old New England toast:

Here’s to good old Boston,
Home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots
And the Cabots speak only to God.


Lodge’s ancestors included six U.S. senators, a secretary of state, a Civil War general, and a governor of Massachusetts. His grandfather and namesake, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, was the dour Republican famous for leading the forces that crushed Woodrow Wilson’s hopes that the United States would join the newly formed League of Nations after World War I.

Growing up, Lodge picked mulberries in Henry James’s garden, rode horses with George Patton, and visited Edith Wharton’s house in France, where he lived with his family for two years, studying French. In the 1920s, he worked as a newsman, writing for the Boston Transcript and the New York Herald-Tribune. In 1936, after a brief stint in the Massachusetts legislature, he was elected to his grandfather’s old seat in the U.S. Senate. Witty, friendly, and popular, Lodge was a liberal Republican who supported many of FDR’s New Deal programs. During the war, he resigned from the Senate, to serve in the Army in Europe. After the war, he won reelection to the Senate, but he was defeated in 1952 by a rich, handsome young war hero named John F. Kennedy. In 1953, Eisenhower appointed Lodge ambassador to the United Nations, which was, ironically, the successor to the League of Nations that his grandfather had fought so fiercely.

When Ike picked Lodge instead of Nixon to serve as Khrushchev’s guide, pundits speculated that the president was indicating his choice of a successor. Actually, Ike’s reasoning was far less Machiavellian. He simply figured that the diplomatic Lodge was less likely than Nixon to get into any eye-gouging, ear-biting brawls with Khrushchev.

When Lodge arrived at Blair House, he introduced himself to his future traveling companion and asked if there was anything he could do. Khrushchev looked up at Lodge—who at six feet four inches stood a foot higher than the Russian—and smiled. “Before coming over here, I read your speeches,” Khrushchev said. “And after I read them, I thought I would be scared of you, but now that I have been with you, talked with you, and seen what a nice man you are, I don’t feel scared any more.”

That was baloney, of course—any man who’d endured Stalin’s murderous whims would hardly be frightened by Lodge’s U.N. oratory—but at least it was good-natured, friendly baloney.

“Mr. Lodge, I want you to understand one thing,” Khrushchev continued, still smiling playfully. “I have not come to the United States to learn anything about America. We know all we need to know about America and we learn it through our Marxist instruction.”

Now it was Lodge’s turn to smile “Thank you for telling me, Mr. Chairman,” he said. “We will do our utmost to comply with your wishes.”

Excerpted from K Blows Top, by Peter Carlson, available now from PublicAffairs (www.publicaffairsbooks.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Blind
    The Blind
    by A.F. Brady
    In The Blind, A. F. Brady, a licensed psychotherapist, takes readers inside a residential ...
  • Book Jacket: The Rules of Magic
    The Rules of Magic
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels,...
  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

This love story set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower is "vibrant and transportive." (Bustle)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.