The Bookshelf

ADLAI STEVENSON, by John B. Martin. Harper & Brothers, N. Y., and ADLAI E. STEVENSON OF ILLINOIS, by Noel F. Busch. Farrar, Strauss, & Young, N. Y.

Since he mounted the Democrat's national platform, Adlai Stevenson has been the subject of two books. After reading them it is difficult to tell who is taking advantage of whom. The most plausible theory, perhaps, is that the Governor's little men are using authors Martin and Busch, both reporters, as part of a know-your-candidate campaign, aimed at the many voters who know Stevenson only as a Princeton accent out among the steers.

Both Martin and Busch have denied this, however, and as if stricken with a guilty conscience over the gushing admiration of Stevenson that pervades their efforts, they have taken pains to deny it in print. Perhaps, then, it is they who are capitalizing on Stevenson's sudden emergence to sell more books--books that were not originally planned for publication until some months hence. Or it may be that the authors, of their own accord, are simply trying to help their favorite candidate.

I advance all these theories because both Adlai Stevenson and Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois look very suspiciously like rush jobs. (Busch's appeared just before the Democratic Convention and Martin's soon after). Basically, they are overblown news stories, combining amateurish attempts at character analysis with homey anecdotes about the Governor frolicking with his kids on the front lawn. Neither book is well written because, I suppose, quotations, homily, and hum-drum are incompatible with polished prose. At best, they are slick.

Busch's is the sloppiest, which indicates that he was in the most hurry to get his book on the book-stands--an achievement, incidentally, which has amply rewarded him according to the best seller lists. His style is all looseness and wind, and to see for yourself you have only to read the book's opening sentence, an unbroken string of words comprising fifteen lines of type. Also, he verges on panegyric too often to maintain any pretense of impartiality.

Yet, as journalism both books are adequate, not because journalism implies sloppy writing, but because they satisfy the voter's thirst for facts. They are full of information about Stevenson's career, his background, his personality, his views, and his way of attacking problems. And after all, what more does the public want from such a book at a time like this?


If I had to choose between the two, I would be uncomfortable. Martin, for his part, avoids the role of petty raconteur, and concentrates on the Governor's record in state politics. Where Busch rambles on about boyhood trips to Europe and childhood experience, Martin sticks closely to public administration. I am bound to say, though, that Martin includes nothing on Stevenson's work in the AAA, the Navy Department, and the State Department, important and impressive parts of the Governor's career.

On the other hand, Busch's book has pictures, droves of them. Better still, it includes 118 pages devoted to Stevenson's own utterances, whose content and style are as praiseworthy as Busch's are not. The easiest answer--and if you are going to read up on the Democratic candidate the best as well--is to buy both.