Better news: 'Hawk and Dove'

Nicholas Thompson's new book The Hawk and the Dove has received admiring reviews and was the subject of a wonderful feature story this past weekend in the New York Times. It's a very good work -- not least because it takes a gamble on a "high concept" for the book, and pulls it off.


Actually there are two high concepts here. One is that a paired biography of two often-contending figures of the Cold War era -- Paul Nitze and George Kennan (left and right, respectively, in the photo, often with the opposite orientation in their policies) -- will work in literary and intellectual terms. The other is that the author's relationship to one of the subjects -- Nitze was his grandfather -- will give him extra insight without warping his perspective. It succeeds on both counts.

Nicholas Thompson is 34 years old; I first met him a dozen years ago, when he was part of a student group pressuring US News to change its benighted college-ranking system. (I was then US News' editor. Story for another time.) Since then he has worked for great magazines -- the Washington Monthly, Legal Affairs, now Wired -- and been part of the New America Foundation. With all the woes of journalism, it's encouraging to see ambitious and talented people giving it their best.