Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on The World of Theodore H. White, Pt. 1

D.W. Buffa's latest novel is Lunatic Carnival, the tenth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, most recently, America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when I was in college or in my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series begins:
Graduating summa cum laude from Harvard in 1938, Theodore H. White received a fellowship which allowed him to travel to China, where he became correspondent for Time Magazine and then, a few years later, chief of Time’s China bureau. Toward the end of the war, he attended a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party where, in an “unheated, draft-leaking, mud-chinked assembly hall,” he met Mao Tse-tung and knew immediately “who was master, always had been master, always would be master.” Mao had not been elected by the Communist Party; he had chosen himself, but there “was no doubt in l944…that authority was his alone” and “that succession of leadership would pass at his will to whomever he chose.”

Years later, in The Making of the President 1960, White showed how different things were here. Power was not held by one man or one party; power was transferred by frequent and regular elections, and “no people has succeeded at it better, or over a longer period of time, than the Americans.” John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by a mere 112,000 votes out of nearly 69 million votes cast, but even before the vote had been counted, White knew with complete certainty that, “Good or bad, whatever the decision, America will accept the decision - and cut down any man who goes against it, even though for millions the decision runs contrary to their own votes. The general vote is an expression of national will, the only substitute for violence and blood. Its verdict is to be defended as one defends civilization itself.”

Beginning with the election of 1960, in which he reports how John F. Kennedy was elected, to...[read on]
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

Third Reading: A Passage To India.

Third Reading: Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Third Reading: The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

Third Reading: All The King’s Men.

Third Reading: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.

Third Reading: Naguib Mahfouz’s novels of ancient Egypt.

Third Reading: Main Street.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series.

--Marshal Zeringue