This hilarious account of Khrushchev's 1959 U.S. tour is also a supremely entertaining evocation of the history and atmosphere of Cold War America
Khrushchev's 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted - "a surreal extravaganza," as historian John Lewis Gaddis called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe.
Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the trip, K Blows Top is a work of history that reads like a Vonnegut novel. This cantankerous communist's road trip took place against the backdrop of the fifties in capitalist America, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man who possessed the power to incinerate America.
K Blows Top
Khrushchevs first meal in America was a sumptuous lunch at Blair
House, the official presidential guest residencefillet of beef with truffles,
potatoes, string beans, and a Charlotte Russe praline with raspberry
sauce. He was just finishing when he received his first visitorHenry
Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to the United Nations and the
man Ike had selected to be Khrushchevs tour guide on his odyssey across
Few men on earth had less in common: Khrushchev was a short, pudgy, uneducated Russian peasant whod climbed to power by tenacity and brutality; Lodge was a tall, thin, Harvard-educated Boston Brahmin whod been born into Americas aristocracy, scion of one of the families immortalized in an old New England toast:
Heres 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.
Lodges ancestors included...
All in all, this is a well-executed, pleasant piece of historical reportage about a crucial and colorful slice of the twentieth century.
(Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).
Vice president Richard Nixon spars with Nikita Khrushchev during the former's visit to Moscow.
On the set of the film Can-Can, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra gave the communist dictator a taste of good old fashioned American titillation.
K and wife Nina pose with the family of Iowa corn farmer Robert Garst whose deft salesmanship influenced the development of Soviet agriculture.
Khrushchev embraces the victorious Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in New York city during a meeting of the United Nations. An explosive alliance between the Caribbean nation and the Soviet Union would soon solidify and send the world to the brink of Armageddon.
more images from K's tour
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