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John Gunther

John Gunther

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John Gunther, the son of Eugene and Lizette Guenther, was born in Chicago on 30th August, 1901. Both his parents were children of German immigrants. His father was an unsuccessful salesman while his mother became a schoolteacher. John and his sister, Jean, both suffered from ill-health as children. John later recalled: "We were lonely children. We both disliked games." John hated sport and spent most of his spare-time reading books.

Gunther enrolled at the University of Chicago. At first he studied Chemistry but later changed to History and English. Gunther's student friend, Vincent Sheean, later recalled: "The University of Chicago, one of the largest and richest institutions of learning in the world, was partly inhabited by a couple of thousand young nincompoops whose ambition in life was to get into the right fraternity or club, go to the right parties, and get elected to something or other."

Unlike most of his fellow students, Gunther took his studies seriously. He was especially interested in modern literature and was very impressed with Sinclair Lewis, the author of the highly successfulMain Street, which questioned the morality of small town, middle-America. Gunther also liked the work of James Branch Cabell, whose novel, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, was suppressed for several years after its publication on grounds of obscenity.

Gunther became a member of staff of The Chicago Maroon, the university newspaper. He specialized in book reviews and in 1921 his work was published by various newspapers. The following year, H. L. Mencken commissioned an article on Higher Learning in America: The University of Chicago , for his magazine, Smart Set (April 1922). Soon afterwards Gunther provided a regular column for the Chicago Daily News, that had a circulation of 375,000.

In July 1923 Gunther met Helen Hahn, an older sister of Emily Hahn. Gunther fell for her the moment they met. Ken Cuthbertson, argued in Inside: The Biography of John Gunther (1992): "When Helen was working or otherwise engaged, John dated her two older sisters, Rose and Dauphine, and occasionally the younger Emily... John was deeply and hopelessly in love with Helen. He was also jealous of her many other suitors. John was determined to marry Helen, and during a year of dogged pursuit he became a familiar figure around the Hahn's North Side home... Helen eventually made it clear to John that she regarded their relationship as mostly platonic. He was insistent that it be something more... She enjoyed his company and spent much time with him, but she did not find him physically attractive; the chemistry just was not there."

Upset by her rejection Gunther decided to resign from his $55-per-week job with the Chicago Daily News to seek work in England. On 22nd October, 1924, he left the United States on the RMS Olympic . On his arrival he visited the CDN office on Trafalgar Square to meet bureau chief Hal O'Flaherty. After a brief discussion, O'Flaherty offered him a job as his assistant. This involved writing several articles about leading writers such as Hugh Walpole, G. K. Chesterton and Frank Swinnerton.

During this period Gunther met Raymond Gram Swing, who was working at the London bureau of the Philadelphia Daily Ledger and the New York Post. Despite a fourteen-year-age difference, the two men became close friends. Swing also introduced Gunther to another journalist, Dorothy Thompson, who was soon to be appointed as the Berlin bureau chief. Ken Cuthbertson has pointed out: "Thompson, who was taken with John Gunther, befriended him both as a young man and a pupil. Theirs was an intimate, albeit platonic (as far as is known), relationship which endured through good times and bad."

At a meeting addressed by Emma Goldman, Gunther met Rebecca West. The two soon became lovers. West described Gunther as my "young and massive Adonis with curly blond hair." Gunther, who was nine years younger than West wrote to Helen Hahn saying that he was "a little afraid of her". According to Victoria Glendinning, the author of Rebecca West: A Life (1987): "Rebecca entertained John Gunther, smothered him in maternal affection, and introduced him to writers and loved him dearly in a carefree way."

During this period he also met the young English critic-novelist, J. B. Priestley, who had just published English Comic Characters (1925). Gunther was very impressed and wrote to Helen Hahn: "Please put him (Priestley) down in some book and underline him with red ink. Then, 20 years from now, thank me for first discovering a great critic. I mean this very seriously - Priestley is a comer." Gunther was correct in his assessment and three years later he published the best-selling novel, The Good Companions.

Rebecca West introduced Gunther to Eric Maschwitz, who worked for a publisher but really wanted to write novels. The two men soon became close friends and decided to go on holiday together in France. Eric's wife, the actress, Hermione Gingold, also joined them on their visit. However, after a week Maschwitz ran out of money and was forced to return to London.

While in Paris Gunther met Frances Fineman, a pretty, blonde-haired expatriate from New York City. Francis also introduced Gunther to Ford Madox Ford and Ernest Hemingway. Gunther described Ford as "England's most promising young man for about 40 years." He was more impressed with Hemingway and told Helen Hahn: "Put that name down. Ernest Hemingway. He can think straight and he can write English. Heaven knows two such joined accomplishments are rare nowadays."

In 1926 Martin Secker agreed to publish Gunther's first novel, The Red Pavilion in London and Cass Canfield at Harper & Brothers in New York City. The novel was based on Gunther's relationship with Helen Hahn. The Spectator praised the novel as "one of the best, most cultivated and human of recent American books". The New York Times also liked the novel and commented on Gunther's mastery of the "technique of this genuinely sophisticated novel." However, The Saturday Review dismissed the book as "exceedingly pretentious and at times irritating". The sales of the book improved when it was banned in Boston because it was claimed that the novel was "morally objectionable".

Gunther continued to work for Chicago Daily News and became close friends with other American foreign correspondents including Dorothy Thompson, Hubert Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, George Seldes, Raymond Gram Swing, Walter Duranty and William L. Shirer. He was especially close to Shirer and Sheean. Shirer recalled: "We were, the three of us, Chicago kids, and we all had a lot of luck. Jimmy was the best writer of the three of us and a deeper thinker than John or me, I think."

Gunther married Frances Fineman in Rome on 16th March, 1927. According to Ken Cuthbertson Francis had come from a troubled background: "In 1911 her mother ran off with a well-to-do Texan named Morris Brown, whom she eventually married. She then took her daughter with her when she went to live at her new husband's home in Galveston... Frances had been deeply attached to her natural father. Her feelings of betrayal at the breakup of her parents' marriage turned to hatred for a stepfather who sexually abused her. The depth of Frances' emotional trauma manifested itself in later life in the form of a self-destructive ambivalence towards men. She was filled with a seething mistrust and resentment of males, yet she craved the paternal affection that had been denied her."

Gunther spent his spare time writing his second novel, Eden for One: An Amusement. "The story is about Peter Lancelot, a small boy with a penchant for dreaming. When a magician named Mr. Dominy causes Peter's every desire to come true, the boy promptly wishes himself into an idyllic new world for which, Mr. Dominy conjures up an island, a garden, a castle, a friend, and a lover. But in a moralistic twist, life in this paradise inevitably goes sour." When it was published by Harper & Brothers in New York City in the autumn of 1927 it received poor reviews.

In August 1928 Gunther spent time with Walter Duranty in Moscow: He wrote in the Chicago Daily News: "Perhaps the first impression is the almost total absence of automobiles. The few that we do see are relics of an almost neolithic past, strange monsters with distorted body lines, paintless fenders, grotesquely fanciful hoods." Gunther later admitted in his autobiography that he provided information that he picked up from these visits to American and British officials: "Naturally, we (American foreign correspondents) cultivated friendships with American officials and diplomats, as well as those of other countries."

Gunther made his radio broadcasting debut on Chicago station WMAQ. The Chicago Daily News reported: "The first few words were fuzzy, while engineers had fumbled with equipment, but then Gunther's voice was heard with remarkable clarity." One critic claimed that Gunther had a clear radio voice that reminded him of movie actor James Stewart. Gunther considered radio easy work and easy money but dismissed broadcasting as not being "serious journalism".

Judith Gunther was born on 25th September, 1928. Unfortunately she died four months later. An autopsy revealed that she was a victim of an undiagnosed thymus ailment known as status thymicolymphaticus. Ken Cuthbertson has pointed out: "Tortured by feelings of guilt at having aborted several unwanted pregnancies, she now became obsessed with the notion that Judy's death was a cruel form of divine retribution for her past indiscretions." A son, Johnny, was born in 1929.

Gunther also wrote freelance articles and in October, 1929, Harper's Magazine published a much acclaimed article on Al Capone and other gangsters in Chicago. Entitled, The High Cost of Hoodlums , Gunther argued that 600 hoodlums had succeeded in terrorizing Chicago's three million citizens. He pointed out that gangsters could have an enemy "bumped off" for as little as $50. However, the going-rate for a newspaper man, like himself, was $1,000. Although his work was being praised Gunther believed that he was a deeply flawed journalist: "I'm terribly limited. I completely lack intensity of soul. I'm not original. I'm really only a competent observer who works terribly hard at doing a job well."

In June 1930, Gunther became the Chicago Daily News journalist based in Vienna. He soon became close friends with Marcel Fodor, who worked for the Manchester Guardian. Another friend working in the city was William L. The two men played tennis together. They also explored the city together and Gunther later recalled that it was "the friendliest city in Europe". Shirer argued that Gunther was an excellent journalist: "John Gunther would go to a country and he'd immediately want to know who had the power, who made the decisions, who had the money, those sorts of things. Wherever he went, he'd always want to interview the king, or the president, or the prime minister."

Dorothy Thompson, Hubert Knickerbocker, Edgar Ansel Mowrer, Robert Henry Best and George Seldes were other newspaper friends who also spent a lot of time in the city during this period. They used to meet at the Café Louvre. A student, J. William Fulbright, on a visit to the city, later recalled: "You could find a group of journalists there most evenings. I remember hearing Fodor hold forth, and he and I became friends. Fodor was a short, stocky man with a mustache, and it was obvious that he was very intelligent; he spoke with great authority on an astounding range of subjects."

Richard Rovere described Gunther in the 1930s as being "tall and blond, with a bulldozer frame, blue eyes, a ruddy complexion, and incongruously delicate features." When he met the film actress, Tallulah Bankhead for the first time, she said: "I'm in a helluva fix, because I think you're a writer, yet you look like a football player." Gunther asked why this mattered and she replied: "Because I don't know whether to be witty or sexy".

Gunther's biographer, Ken Cuthbertson, pointed out in Inside: The Biography of John Gunther (1992) that: "John Gunther was a larger-than-life figure who embraced life with passion... Gunther was an amiable, fair-haired bear of a man. His abiding passions in life were not political, but rather good company, gourmet food and drink, fine clothing, and beautiful women. As someone once noted, he had no friends, only best friends." Gunther had expensive tastes and his financial situation was not helped by his refusal to accept money from the Austrian government paid to most foreign journalists in return for favorable news coverage.

In 1932 John Gunther was elected president of the correspondents' association. One of his duties was to arrange informal weekly luncheons for local and visiting celebrities and dignitaries. People that Gunther invited to these luncheons included Oswald Garrison Villard, Margot Asquith, H. G. Wells, Rebecca West and Engelbert Dollfuss.

Gunther became infatuated with the young actress, Luise Rainer. Although she was only twenty years old she had already appeared in a couple of German-language films and was clearly a future big star. Gunther's friend, William L. Shirer, pointed out that this caused problems for his relationship with his wife, Frances Fineman Gunther: "He fell for her to an extent that I don't think Frances was pleased. John had a roving eye and liked to flirt." Rainer later recalled: "He was tall, husky, and blond. He was, of course, very bright and had a great sense of humor. I thought he was a terribly nice fellow... However, I must say something simply and brusquely: I was never in love with him, or anything of that kind."

In the summer of 1934 Gunther and Marcel Fodor visited the birthplace of Adolf Hitler. In the Austrian town of Braunau, they sought out and interviewed Hitler's surviving relatives, including a disabled first cousin, an aged and poverty-stricken aunt, and his godfather. This was the first time foreign journalists had delved into Hitler's background. The Gunther-Fodor expose appeared in several European newspapers and magazines. Hitler was furious and instructed the Gestapo that the two men were to be hanged if they were caught.

On 25th July, 1934, a group of 144 well-armed Austrian Nazis mounted a putsch aimed at toppling the government of Engelbert Dollfuss by storming the chancellery. Gunther was one of the first journalists on the scene: "The tawny oak doors were shut and a few policemen were outside, but otherwise nothing seemed wrong." However, the right-wing fanatics were inside the building. Faced with the prospect of surrendering or fighting to the death, the rebels laid down their arms in return for a promise of safe passage out of the building. Gunther raced upstairs to find that Dollfuss had been shot in the throat at point blank range and had bled to death. Gunther wrote: "His murder marked the entrance of gangsterism into European politics on an international basis... Dollfus died to keep anarchy out of Central Europe; and this is his best memorial."

In 1934 Cass Canfield of Harper & Brothers approached Hubert Knickerbocker, who had recently won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting, and suggested that he wrote a serious and comprehensive book about Europe. Knickerbocker was in the middle of another project and replied: "Try John Gunther. He's the only one with the brains, the brass, and the gusto to write the book you want." Gunther also said he was too busy. In his book, A Fragment of Autobiography (1962) Gunther wrote: "I persisted in saying no to the project, and finally Miss Baumgarten asked me what, if any, financial advance would induce me to change my mind. To cut the whole matter off, I named the largest sum I had ever heard of - $5,000." Canfield said yes and in his autobiography, Up, Down and Around (1972) argued: "I had the strong feeling that the book would not only sell but blaze a new trail."

Gunther later recalled in the Atlantic Magazine how he did his research for the book. This included having meetings with his many contacts in Europe. "I should equip myself to be able to give information, since it's always easier to ask for something if you offer something in exchange. Journalism is really a process of barter between two people who each know something and find it to their advantage to exchange or pool their knowledge." His wife, Frances Fineman Gunther, helped him with the research and in 1935 he visited London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow. Gunther also met Hubert Knickerbocker who was based in Nazi Germany at the time. Knickerbocker shared his vast store of firsthand inside information on Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.

Gunther finished his 190,000-word manuscript in just seven months. He typed the last words in the early hours on 2nd December, 1935. He celebrated by drinking "about a dozen beers" and dancing in the streets. It was typeset but Gunther continued to send updates until just before it was printed. This included the news that Anthony Eden had replaced Samuel Hoare in the British government.

Cass Canfield published the book in its entirety in the United States but decided to hire three British lawyers to look at the manuscript before it was published in London. Several passages were removed including a reference to Joseph Goebbels "Goebbels never kicks a man until he's down". Another passage that was not published in Britain was the comment that Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, was the "head of a dwindling movement". The British government made it clear that they wanted nothing published if it damaged Anglo-German relations. It was the same concern that kept Winston Churchill from being allowed to appear on British Broadcasting Corporation radio programs.

The 510-page Inside Europe was published in January 1936. It included a 4,000-word profile of Adolf Hitler. As the author of Inside: The Biography of John Gunther (1992) has pointed out: "The profile revealed in a matter-of-fact way the bizarre character of a man who eschewed friends, money, sex, religion, and physical activity in his Machiavellian quest for unbridled power; Hitler emerged as a dangerous, unpredictable ascetic, a peasant with insatiable drives." Hitler was outraged and banned the book in Nazi Germany.

The publisher, Cass Canfield, later admitted: "We figured that Inside Europe ought to sell just about 5,000 copies. That way, we'd have paid off our part of the advance and made a fairly decent profit." The first print run of 5,000 was sold out within days. The main reason for this was that the book received very good reviews. Raymond Gram Swing, writing in The Nation, pointed out that Inside Europe filled a real need at a time when America was reawakening from its self-imposed isolationism. "The vigor and almost impudent candor of this book mark it as distinctly American. I cannot imagine a man of any other nationality writing it." Lewis Gannett of the New York Herald Tribune argued that Inside Europe was the "liveliest, best-informed picture of Europe's chaotic politics that has come my way in years."

Eventually total sales reached 500,000 in the United States and Britain. Foreign sales amounted to at least 100,000. George Seldes later pointed out: "Everybody was envious of Gunther's success. We all asked ourselves why we hadn't thought of writing the same kind of book. I guess maybe many of us had, and that's why some people felt they could have done a better job than Gunther did. But the fact was that you really had to hand it to him - he did an excellent job."

The publication of Inside Europe turned John Gunther into a well-known figure. The journalist, Richard Rovere, claimed in The New Yorker that in the late 1930s Gunther occupied an exalted position alongside Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh as "one of a half-dozen or so authentic international celebrities" of the era. It is estimated that his syndicated reports, which were carried by more than 100 newspapers across North America and had a major influence on public opinion.

Gunther held strong opinions about the Spanish Civil War and agreed with Archibald MacLeish that it was a "political battlefield between democracy and reaction". In June 1938 he attended the League of American Writers' Congress at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Speakers included Donald Ogden Stewart, Earl Browder, Ernest Hemingway and Joris Ivens.

Cass Canfield was so pleased with the sales of Inside Europe that he commissioned Inside Asia. After a long tour of the region the manuscript was delivered to Canfield in April 1939. It was published two months later. The New York Times reviewer claimed that the book provided a "vivid panorama". The New Yorker praised the book as "a corker" and added that it was "the plain duty of all anti-parish-pump citizens to ship east of Suez at once with John Gunther as their dragoman". Time Magazine was more restrained in its review describing the book as "lively, gossipy, not too profound but interesting encyclopedia of present-day Asia." The book received a hostile reception in Britain with several reviewers complaining about his "anti-British Empire sentiments".

On the outbreak of the Second World War Gunther was interviewed by Walter Winchell, who at the time was arguing in favour of United States intervention against Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Gunther argued: "I would be the greatest isolationist in the country, if isolation were possible, but it isn't. We have to negotiate with these dictators, and to do that we have to have some shoulders and muscles to show that we have to be listened to."

As Gunther was one of the leading figures arguing for intervention, was invited to London and on 13th September 1939, Winston Churchill, who had recently entered the government as First Lord of the Admiralty, agreed to an interview. Gunther later recalled: "Churchill... looked like an extraordinary kewpie doll made of iron and shiny pink leather. I noticed that his powerful body rose atop thin legs." Churchill was mainly interested in what he had discovered in his recent trip to the Soviet Union. "There were not many observers in London then who had been in Moscow a fortnight before and who could give a firsthand account of Russian moods and challenges."

John Gunther died on 29th May, 1970.

I should equip myself to be able to give information, since it's always easier to ask for something if you offer something in exchange. Journalism is really a process of barter between two people who each know something and find it to their advantage to exchange or pool their knowledge.

Everybody was envious of Gunther's success. But the fact was that you really had to hand it to him - he did an excellent job.

Gunther's next book was Inside Asia. When we discussed this volume in its initial stages, I ventured the observation that, while he'd spent several years in Europe, he'd never been farther east than Beirut, where lie had stayed only a few days. He replied that he thought lie could bone up on Asia - which he did. As was his habit, lie read intensively before starting to write, and talked to academic experts as well as to people in Washington before going on his trip. At one point I introduced him to Nathaniel Peffer, a Columbia professor and an authority on the Far East, and, after a long lunch during which Gunther scribbled like mad on a big yellow pad, I suggested that lie cancel his trip to Japan because it couldn't possibly provide him with more information than he had obtained from Peffer.

Gunther was one of the most vivid characters I have ever known, and one of the most indefatigable workers. He was helped enormously by his beautiful and intelligent wife Jane, an acute observer with a gift for factual accuracy.

I remember sitting at a cafe in the Piazza San Marco in Venice and noticing a lovely young woman striding toward me, followed by a tired, droopy man; they were the Gunthers. John complained bitterly at having been dragged through the Accademia picture gallery lie was done in... A fortnight passed and the scene was repeated, in reverse. This time a bright-looking fellow walked briskly toward us, followed by a tired lady dragging her feet; the Gunthers again. During those two weeks they had been traveling in Yugoslavia, where John had interviewed scores of people. The explanation of the reversal in their roles was that the endless working sessions in Yugoslavia had acted on John like a shot of adrenalin, while Jane had found the experience utterly exhausting.

One of Gunther's remarkable qualities was his timing. Again and again it looked as if one of his Inside books would be hopelessly out-of-date by the time it was published, but there was a little alarm clock tucked away somewhere in the back of John's head which never seemed to fail him. He started Inside Europe just as Hitler was emerging as a dominant figure; he began Inside Africa when the nations of that continent were in the process of breaking away from colonization. An amazing man.

Robert Gottlieb on John Gunther—”He Wrote an Amazing Profile of America”

From an essay in the New York Times headlined “Robert Gottlieb on the Man Who Saw America (And We Mean, All of It)”:

Almost 75 years ago John Gunther produced his amazing profile of our country, “Inside U.S.A.” — more than 900 pages long, and still riveting from start to finish. It started out with a first printing of 125,000 copies — the largest first printing in the history of Harper & Brothers — plus 380,000 more for the Book-of-the-Month Club….

It was a phenomenon, but not a surprise: Gunther’s first great success, “Inside Europe,” published in 1936, had helped alert the world to the realities of fascism and Stalinism “Inside Asia” and “Inside Latin America” followed, with comparable success — all three of these books were among the top sellers of their year, as would be “Inside Africa” and “Inside Russia Today,” yet to come. His “Roosevelt in Retrospect” is one of the best political biographies I’ve ever come across, a mere 400 pages long and pure pleasure to read. Like “Inside U.S.A.,” it is out of print — please, American publishers, one of you make them reappear.

Gunther was born in Chicago in 1901, went to the University of Chicago and then on to The Chicago Daily News….By the next year he was in London for The Daily News, and soon was darting around Europe on missions to Berlin, Moscow, Rome, Paris, Poland, Spain, the Balkans and Scandinavia, before being given the Vienna bureau….

He managed to find time to marry Frances Fineman, also a journalist, with whom he shared a very long and very tortured marriage, not helped by either her obsessive attachment to Jawaharlal Nehru or John’s wandering eye. (One woman on whom his eye had rested was Rebecca West, who referred to him in a letter to a friend as that “young and massive Adonis with curly blond hair.”) But his most important, if platonic, relationship with a woman was with the famous journalist Dorothy Thompson — hers was the other clarion voice alerting America to the perils to democracy, to civilization, from Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. The close bond between these two “competitors” never slackened until Thompson’s death, in 1961….

What was Gunther like? It’s a fair question to ask about him, since what people were like was always at the heart of his reporting. (“I had little basic interest in politics,” he wrote in “A Fragment of Autobiography,” “a fault which besets me to this day, but I was ravenously interested in human beings.”) Obviously he was a fanatical worker — his notes for “Inside U.S.A.” approached a million words — although he chose to believe that he was lazy at heart. (“I am not efficient at all, and anybody close to me knows how physically lazy and self-indulgent I am. I waste a preposterous amount of time sitting inert like a blob of protoplasm.”) He loved to laugh. He loved good wine, good food, good nightclubs. He had countless friends — from kings to bartenders, as he liked to say. He was never pompous, never self-promoting, never stuck-up. He made huge amounts of money and spent it all — often before it was actually in hand. And he was unfailingly generous. No wonder everybody liked him.

As for his writing, he would have been embarrassed at the notion that he had a “style.” What he did have was a voice — fluent, personal, casual, snappy. His opinions came across — he was a pro-New Deal liberal — though not through editorializing. He was a reporter — probably the best America ever had. He came, he saw, he wrote. When recently I mentioned to Bob Caro that I was writing about “Inside U.S.A.,” he lit up. “What a book! When I was writing ‘Master of the Senate’ I had it on my desk next to my typewriter, and whenever I needed to check on someone or something, all I had to do was open it up. And the sense it conveys about America in the postwar 1940s! There’s just nothing like it!”

One of the things that makes it so alive is Gunther’s curiosity about his own country he knew Latin America, he knew Europe, he knew Asia, but he didn’t know America. “The United States, like a cobra, lay before me, seductive, terrifying and immense,” he wrote. “‘Inside U.S.A.’ was the hardest task I ever undertook.” He was yet again an outsider, looking in. “Not only was I trying to write for the man from Mars I was one.”

Gunther begins his discovery of America in California — “the most spectacular and most diversified American state, California so ripe, golden, yeasty, churning in flux. … at once demented and very sane, adolescent and mature” — and he proceeds around the country, state by state, until he arrives in Arizona, next door to where he began. Sometimes he devotes an entire chapter to a single person — the perpetual presidential candidate-to-be Harold Stassen the great industrialist Henry Kaiser New York’s colorful (to say the least) Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who is probably best remembered for having, during a strike of newspaper deliverers, read “the funnies” aloud on the radio so as not to disappoint the city’s kids….

In counterpoint to these extended essays and profiles are hundreds and hundreds of short takes, seemingly chosen at random, culled by Gunther’s eagle eye as he scoured the country. Here are mundane conversations overheard meetings with governors and senators quotes from lunatic right-wing newspapers the uninhibited talk of millionaires and sharecroppers….

No other country, Gunther says, “could have headlines like WAR WITH JAPAN PERILS WORLD SERIES … or the sign on the Success Cafe in Butte in 1932, EAT HERE OR I’LL VOTE FOR HOOVER, or another headline, one from a New York tabloid about a woman soon to be electrocuted, SHE’LL BURN, SIZZLE, FRY!”

What motors Gunther’s astounding energy, focus and recall is his almost demented curiosity. “Inside U.S.A.” is a voyage of discovery for him as much as for us, and after 900-plus pages his curiosity is unsated, as he regrets all the things he didn’t get to explore and reveal. “There is nothing in this book, and now it’s too late to put it in, about how airplanes spray trees with DDT in Oregon or why Pullman washbowls have the water tap set in so close. … I haven’t even mentioned that there were 72,000 G.I.s named Smith … or children in scarlet mufflers patting their scarlet mittens together and listening to Santa Claus out in the snow in a Vermont public square or college fraternities and sororities and their adolescent hocus-pocus or the lonely red railway stations and their water towers and greased switches in northern Minnesota or people as authentically part of the American scene as Little Orphan Annie, Terry and the Pirates, Blondie and Superman.” And on and on and on. You can sense him mourning the fact that he doesn’t have another 900 pages to fill.

And then there is America’s future to ponder. “There is no valid reason why the American people cannot work out an evolution in which freedom and security are combined,” Gunther concludes. “In a curious way it is earlier, not later, than we think. The fact that a third of the nation is ill-housed and ill-fed is, in simple fact, not so much a dishonor as a challenge. What Americans have to do is enlarge the dimensions of the democratic process. This country is, I once heard it put, absolutely ‘lousy with greatness’ — with not only the greatest responsibilities but with the greatest opportunities ever known to man.” Finally, “Inside U.S.A.” is an unintentional account of a man falling in love with his crazy and wonderful country.

Robert Gottlieb’s biography of Greta Garbo will be published in December.

A Man From Mars

"AMERICA," Winston Churchill said, "stands at this moment at the summit of the world." The moment was August, 1945. Nazi Germany had fallen, the atomic bomb had been dropped, imperial Japan was about to surrender, the European Allies were battered and spent, and the United States bestrode the narrow world. It was a new America, hardly known to the world -- or to itself. This was the America that John Gunther portrayed in the vivid and acute reportage of Inside U.S.A., which is to be reissued this month by the New Press.

This book, now half a century old, is an astonishing tour de force. It presents a shrewd, fast-moving, sparkling panorama of the United States at this historic moment of apparent triumph. Sinclair Lewis called it "the richest treasure-house of facts about America that has ever been published, and probably the most spirited and interesting." At the same time, in its preoccupations and insights Inside U.S.A.foresaw dilemmas and paradoxes that were to harass and frustrate Americans for the rest of the century. And in this age of collective journalism one is permitted to marvel that Inside U.S.A. is a one-man production.

John Gunther was forty-three years old in November of 1944, when he set out on his exploration of America. He was already the best known of the brilliant generation of foreign correspondents that had educated an isolationist America about the outside world in the years between the two great wars. Their names are mostly forgotten now -- Vincent Sheean, Raymond Gram Swing, Dorothy Thompson, Edgar Snow, Harold Isaacs, Paul Scott Mowrer, Edgar Ansel Mowrer, H. R. Knickerbocker, and many others. They were a venturesome crowd, audacious, irreverent, resourceful, hard-playing, hard-drinking, and hardworking, and their ardent dispatches brought home to Americans the personalities, ambitions, intrigues, and dangers that were putting the planet on the slippery slope into the Second World War.

Many, like Gunther himself, came from the isolationist heartland, the Middle West. Gunther was born in Chicago in 1901, graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922, and later that year made his first trip to Europe, in the style of the times, on a cattle boat. After a stint back home as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, he returned to Europe in 1924 and soon, as a Daily News roving correspondent, was covering stories in a dozen European countries. By 1930 he was the head of the Daily News bureau in Vienna. In 1935 he was transferred to the paper's top job in Europe -- bureau chief in London.

The 1930s, Gunther later recalled,

But Gunther was not a conventional correspondent. He had little interest in spot news or in scoops he thought it silly to break his neck trying to beat the competition by a few minutes on a story that everyone would have in an hour. His early hope had been to succeed as a novelist. His novels made little impression. Rebecca West told him that his fiction was awful. But his journalism, with characters supplied by life itself, was the work of a novelist manqué. "I had little basic interest in politics

he said, "but I was ravenously interested in human beings.

For good or ill, I instinctively think of myself as a novelist." And his preferred form was not the dispatch but the book.

In 1934 Cass Canfield, of the house of Harper's, persuaded him to try his hand at a country-by-country survey of Europe. Carrying on his newspaper job during the day and working nights, weekends, and holidays on the book, Gunther somehow turned out Inside Europe in seven months. The book, published in February of 1936, was extremely readable, packed with high-level gossip and striking personality sketches, packed also with solid facts presented in a lively manner. It was an instant success, enabling Gunther to retire from daily journalism. As a freelance writer, he began to apply the Inside formula to other parts of the world. Inside Asia came out in 1939, Inside Latin America in 1941.

After Pearl Harbor he served briefly as a war correspondent in Europe. But since 1936 he had been thinking about an Inside book on his native land. Inside Europe had been something of a helter-skelter job of improvisation and assembly each new Inside book was preceded by ever-more-systematic preparation. For the book on the United States, Gunther prepared as never before.

He began by drafting an elaborate outline and requesting comments from a hundred or so journalists, academics, scientists, and lawyers across the country. Then he asked members of Congress business, labor, and farm leaders and heads of national organizations to suggest key people to whom he should talk in the (then) forty-eight states. He submitted questions to forty-eight governors -- and received forty-seven replies. He read the classic works on America (Alexis de Tocqueville, James, later Lord, Bryce) and the writings of the living Briton who knew the most about America -- D. W. Brogan.

Having done his homework, he began in November of 1944 his "long circumnavigation of the greatest, craziest, most dangerous, least stable, most spectacular, least grown-up, and most powerful and magnificent nation ever known." For thirteen months he traversed all forty-eight states, visiting more than 300 communities, including all but five of the forty-three cities with a population above 200,000.

does not pretend to be a profound analysis of American civilization, in the manner of Tocqueville and Bryce. But Gunther had his own quiver of penetrating questions. His objective was to identify the forces that made "this incomparable Golconda of a country" move. Wherever he went, he asked, Who runs this state or city? What are the basic and irreversible sources of power -- social power, economic power, political power? He interviewed more than 900 people and emerged with more than a million words of notes. And he did it all himself, without professional researchers or stringers.

It took Gunther fifteen months and half a million words to complete the book, which he called "the hardest task I ever undertook." It was all the harder because in the spring of 1946 his beloved sixteen-year-old son fell ill with a malignant brain tumor. Young Johnny lingered in pain for more than a year, while his father, between constant visits to the hospital, worked desperately away on the book. The last batch of copy went to the printers on March 11, 1947 the index (5,197 entries) was completed on April 11 books were shipped on May 6 and in the bookstores (for $5.00) by the publication date of May 28. The book sold half a million copies in the first three months. "I could pay my debts," Gunther recalled, "which were considerable."

Big sales and enthusiastic reviews were small consolation Johnny died at the end of June. His grieving father turned to a memoir of his son, a restrained and moving work intended for family and friends. In 1949, assured that it might comfort other parents, he consented to its publication. Death Be Not Proud remains Gunther's most enduring book.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans, and soon thousands of Europeans, read Inside U.S.A. and discovered the new America. The only virtue he brought to the job, Gunther claimed, aside from curiosity, was ignorance. "Not only was I writing for the man from Mars I was one." The book has the excitement that an ace foreign correspondent brings to a strange land. Gunther was never sated: he had the happy gift of being able to roll on and on without letting the sights blur his eyes or the sounds deafen his ears. Reviewing the book fifty years ago in The Atlantic, I found the writing lucid, informal, and relaxed. I was especially struck by his talent for sharp and sensitive observation, his relish for people and portraiture, his knack for compressing intricate analyses into brief paragraphs -- all these make for intense readability. The book captures the national mood at the end of the Second World War -- the hopes, the doubts, the selfishness and the generosity, the ugliness and the grandeur -- not as in a still photograph but as in a wonderfully varied moving picture.

It is to be noted that Gunther in 1947 spotted John F. Kennedy as an "attractive youngster," Lyndon B. Johnson as an "able" young congressman, and Hubert Humphrey as "one of the best mayors in the nation." Richard M. Nixon, first elected to Congress in 1946, did not make the California chapters.

His flip judgments often raised hackles. Indianapolis did not relish being described as the dirtiest city in the nation, though its citizens did start thereafter to clean the city up nor did Knoxville, Tennessee, enjoy its ranking as the ugliest city. Publication produced a pleasurable amount of local protest and outcry.

Gunther was impressed by the "extraordinary tenacity of state characteristics," the deep-rooted instinct of a state to grow its own way -- and so are we, when we read his still accurate chapters on, say, California ("at once demented and very sane, adolescent and mature") and Texas ("spacious, militant, hospitable, beaming with self-satisfaction"). For all the recurrent concern about standardization and conformity, Gunther was right in emphasizing the regional variations and peculiarities, the intractable pluralism, that defied homogenization and continue to do so to this day.

is far from a panegyric. Gunther listed "the worst American characteristics -- covetousness, ignorance, absence of esthetic values, get-rich-quickism, bluster, lack of vision, lack of foresight, excessive standardization, and immature and undisciplined social behavior." America was still "an enormously provincial nation," he wrote. "I do not know any country that is so ignorant about itself." Have we improved noticeably in the half century since?

GUNTHER had no doubt about the supreme domestic challenge. "The most gravid, cancerous, and pressing of all American problems," he wrote, "is that of the Negro, insoluble under present political and social conditions though capable of great amelioration." He was appalled by the treatment of black Americans in the white South. Until he reached the South, he had, as he confessed, no real idea of what life was like for his black fellow citizens. "I knew that 'segregation' was a problem I had no conception at all of the grim enormousness of the problem." He could not believe it when he was forbidden to take eminent black educators into restaurants in Atlanta, supposedly one of the more civilized southern cities. Atlanta "out-ghettoes anything I ever saw in a European ghetto, even in Warsaw," he wrote. "What I looked at was caste and untouchability -- half the time I blinked remembering that this was not India."

His catalogue of recent lynchings breathes with anger. He noted that almost every victim of lynching since the war was a veteran. The war, he argued, had been fought abroad for democratic principles still violated at home. One result was a rebellious black community, "probably more unified today, more politically vehement, more aggressive in its demand for full citizenship -- even in the South -- than at any other time in history." He detected slow but steady improvement: black Americans were at last let into the American Bar Association and the American College of Surgeons Jackie Robinson had even penetrated organized baseball.

One thing he deemed certain: the days of treating black Americans like sheep were done with. The hope, he felt, lay in incipient black militancy, in latent white decency, and, above all, in education. "The United States must either terminate education among Negroes, an impossibility, or prepare to accept the eventual consequences, that is, Negro equality under democracy." Not a bad guess in the half century since, there have been black justices on the Supreme Court, a black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a black governor of Virginia, black mayors across the country, even in Atlanta. Still, white America has far to go in admitting its black fellow citizens to full equality.

Another concern high on Gunther's list was the protection of the environment. The issue in 1945 was phrased in terms of the conservation of natural resources. Gunther observed that the guardian of the balance of nature was the national government, and the enemies were the greedy locals -- cattlemen, timber men, sheep men, mine owners -- who hoped to make a fast buck by overgrazing and mining the lands and slashing through the forests. Read his story of FDR's rescue of Jackson Hole from the Wyoming cattle interests.

America, Gunther observed, is "a nation on wheels." Americans are always on the move. Nomadism, he thought, breeds indifference to local civic problems: hence municipal corruption, defective public services, slums, juvenile delinquency, the repellent sprawl of filling stations and diners. Yet, at the same time, nomadism is one of the centripetal forces, like chain stores and comic strips, that binds the United States together. The melting pot, he suggested, is another such force. Gunther's view that on the whole the melting pot works will distress multicultural ideologues half a century later, but it is far from clear that Gunther was wrong.

His interest in what holds a nation together is especially relevant in the 1990s, when the end of the Cold War has released ethnic, religious, and linguistic antagonisms that tear nations apart. As for the United States, the fact that it is "in final distillation and essence still run by the propertied class" is, he thought, "the biggest single factor making for national unity." But the fact that "this class has failed in many of its duties, responsibilities, and obligations is the greatest single impediment to unity and the chief force making for discontent." Those who most fear revolution, he wrote, are at the same time those who most bitterly oppose government action designed to fend off disaster.

The American future, he proposed, depends on the way the nation answers three principal questions: how to maintain a democratic polity if the economic machine should break down again, as it did so disastrously in the 1930s how to reconcile the increasing power of corporate interests and their lobbies with the public interest and the general welfare and how to avoid a reversion to isolationism and use American power to promote international organization and the cause of peace.

Fifty years later the first question has not bothered us much the automatic stabilizers built into the economy by the New Deal have thus far prevented a major depression. But the next two questions afflict us still, and perhaps more than ever.

Midway in his quest Gunther discovered that he was accumulating too much material for a single volume. He decided to write first a state-by-state book on the Inside Europe pattern, surveying the local politicos, the industries, the crops, the natural settings, the prejudices, dialects, jokes, and folklore, the food and drink. A second volume, Inside Washington, would deal with national problems, figures, and institutions. The general questions raised in Inside U.S.A., along with discussion on a national scale of big business, labor, agriculture, journalism, women, religion, and education, were thus deferred for more-systematic consideration in the sequel.

Alas, Gunther never got around to writing the second volume. He explained later that he dreaded the amount of work involved, and that he could not figure out how to synchronize the publication of the book with the presidential-election schedule. Instead he brought out a revised edition of Inside U.S.A. in 1951 -- "less exuberant, less sanguine, than the original," he said in 1962.

In 1948 he had married Jane Perry, a beautiful and intelligent young woman who became the indispensable partner in his new projects. Inside Africa came out in 1955, Inside Russia Today in 1958, Inside Europe Today in 1961, Inside South America in 1967, Inside Australia, a posthumous work completed by William H. Forbis, in 1972. He also wrote books on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Douglas MacArthur, a couple of novels (no more successful than his earlier efforts), and several children's books.

He wrote so much partly because he loved writing and partly because he also loved living well. He was a generous host, a great party giver, a natty dresser, a frequenter of deluxe restaurants and nightclubs. He habitually spent all the money he earned. But even when he had money, he had no desire to stop writing. It is interesting to note that Gunther remained a top reporter for forty years, while many of his flashy contemporaries in that great generation of foreign correspondents faded away after the war. The reason is simple: Gunther worked harder than anyone else. His curiosity was unlimited his ear and eye for significant and revealing detail were preternaturally sharp and his capacity for making the most unpromising material vivid and readable was extraordinary. His reactions and judgments were often exceedingly astute. He was (and deserved to be), in the words of Eric Sevareid, "in his day probably the most famous American newsman of them all."

In addition, John Gunther was a man of the utmost personal kindness, especially to young writers (as I had good reason to know). He was wonderful company and a marvelous friend. And he remained throughout a genuinely modest man. "I'm terribly limited," he told a Time interviewer in 1958. "I completely lack intensity of soul. I'm not original. I'm really only a competent observer who works terribly hard at doing a job well." He was not kidding, but he was wrong. He had a real talent for bringing facts to life, and fifty years later Inside U.S.A. still vibrates with his energy and vitality, still draws on the past and present in ways that continue to illuminate the future.

John Gunther died in New York City of liver cancer on May 29, 1970, at the age of sixty-eight.

The Atlantic Monthly April 1997 A Man From Mars Volume 279, No. 4 pages 113 - 118.

John Gunther - History

What is history? According to Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, it is "A record or account, usually written and in chronological order, of past events, especially those concerning a particular nation, people, field of knowledge, or activity." The reason people know so much today is their ancestors either wrote things down, or stories were passed down through the generations. John Gunther&aposs D-DAY is just that: a written account of World War 2. Without books such as D-DAY, our knowledge of the war would be very limited, and perhaps the same mistakes would happen all over again. D-DAY itself is a specifically significant story for a number of reasons. The first hand account of actual soldiers, and their thought of war, is irreplaceable. Without D-DAY someone might never have known about the Africa stages of World War 2, about Malta, the most bombed city in the War, or about life in the army in general.
When people think about World War 2, there are certain things that immediately come to mind. The first is the Jews, the second is the war in Europe, and the third is the war in the Pacific. Not many people know that a war in Africa even existed, however it was very important in the eventually Ally victory. The English 8th army, led by General Montgomery, was the main reason for the success in Africa. The main goal in the campaign was to stop the German army, led by Rommel, from conquering Egypt. It was a fierce game of cat and mouse however the 8th army became very accustomed to the desert conditions, and would later regret having to leave. When Montgomery came in to the war he said, "Give me a fortnight, and I can resist the German attack. Give me three weeks, and I can defeat the Boche. Give me a month, and I can chase him out of Africa." That was exactly what he did. Montgomery was very egotistical. At on point, when.

John Gunther

John Gunther (August 30, 1901 – May 29, 1970) was an American journalist and creator.

His analysis and the contacts that Gunther developed as a reporter additionally led on to the primary of the Inside books, Inside Europe, which was meant by Gunther to summarize the European political state of affairs for the overall reader. With the success of the Inside books beginning within the late Thirties, Gunther resigned his place to commit his full-time to the books. During World War II, he labored as a warfare correspondent in Europe. [8]

Gunther’s experiences as a journalist in interwar Vienna fashioned the idea for his novel The Lost City. [7]

Gunther later described these years as

Gunther met Frances Fineman in London in 1925 and the 2 had been married in 1927. Until 1936, they labored collectively (Frances as a overseas correspondent for London’s News Chronicle) all through Europe. [3] Gunther wrote, “I used to be at one time or one other in control of Daily News workplaces in London, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Rome, and Paris, and I additionally visited Poland, Spain, the Balkans, and Scandinavia. I’ve labored in each European nation besides Portugal. I noticed at first hand the entire extraordinary panorama of Europe from 1924 to 1936.” [4] In Vienna, Gunther labored alongside a bunch of English-speaking central European correspondents that included Marcel Fodor, Dorothy Thompson, Robert Best, and George Eric Rowe Gedye. [5]

He labored briefly within the metropolis as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, however he quickly moved to Europe to be a correspondent with the Daily News London bureau, the place he coated Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East.

In 1922, he was awarded a Bachelor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago, the place he was literary editor of the coed paper.

During World War I, the household modified the spelling of its identify from Guenther to Gunther to keep away from having an obviously-German identify. [2]

Gunther was born in 1901 within the Lakeview district of Chicago and grew up on the North Side of town. He was the primary baby of a German-American household: his father was Eugene Guenther, a touring salesman, and his mom was Lizette Schoeninger Guenther. [1]

Для показа рекламных объявлений Etsy по интересам используются технические решения сторонних компаний.

Мы привлекаем к этому партнеров по маркетингу и рекламе (которые могут располагать собранной ими самими информацией). Отказ не означает прекращения демонстрации рекламы Etsy или изменений в алгоритмах персонализации Etsy, но может привести к тому, что реклама будет повторяться чаще и станет менее актуальной. Подробнее в нашей Политике в отношении файлов Cookie и схожих технологий.

John Gunther Was One Of A Kind

In 28 flagship seasons and ten international seasons of The Ultimate Fighter there have been hundreds of fighters to walk through the TUF doors. You will never find another one quite like TUF 27’s John Gunther.

The Strong Style MMA product was picked by teammate Stipe Miocic and it was only minutes into the first episode before the eccentricity began pouring out of Gunther. Explaining to the housemates his background in alpaca shearing led to more questions, which led to Gunther imitating the animals and that was it. The ice was broken for the season. Pun intended, as swimming in frozen ponds was another hobby of Gunther’s.

Gunther’s home video played like a Naked and Afraid hopeful’s as he explained his life living inside a van, seasonally shearing alpacas, growing up homeschooled, urinating in bottles and much more. Questions about Gunther’s life began piling up.

While other kids were playing kickball and soccer, Gunther spent his childhood hanging around his Amish neighbors. Whether it was mowing with a push mower or stalking corn, Gunther developed quite a knack for manual labor.

Now 34, Gunther explains that his first knowledge of the UFC isn’t even a decade old. While most contestants on TUF 27 were binging every season their whole lives, Gunther was unaware the sport existed for most of his.

“I was super surprised that I made it on to the show,” Gunther recalls. “I feel like it takes like ten years to get good at something. I sometimes wish I would have had more time to master more things before I went on, but I can’t complain.”

The most popular member of the house went on to have a two-fight UFC career and was released from his contract after a loss to Davi Ramos as the UFC celebrated it’s 25th birthday at UFC Denver. A torn ACL resulted in not only his first professional loss but also a dropped contract.

Ever the optimist, Gunther took his loss as an opportunity to finally see the world. Or at least try to.

“I always wanted to drive to the Darien Gap and drive through that but I didn’t make it very far,” Gunther said.

Combining one of the most dangerous trips possible with a hunt for cheap dental work, Gunther actually encountered danger before even reaching Central America.

“I guess my tooth was infected so they were telling me I had to take some antibiotics and come back in a week or something so I just drove around Mexico for a week,” Gunther explained.

As Murphy’s Law would dictate, Gunther crashed his motorcycle on the way back to the dentist’s office. In an attempt to brace his fall with his hand, Gunther broke his hand and did what only John Gunther would do next.

“I stuck my hand out and it broke everywhere,” Gunther laughed. “I’m thinking, ‘Well I gotta get this stupid tooth fixed,’ so I went to the dentist anyway and they’re all concerned but they went on to work on my tooth.”

With concerns over his shattered hand and the state of his bike in a foreign country fresh in his mind, the alpaca shearer was quickly reminded his dental situation was nothing to forget about. Smoke, drills and foreign soil gave Gunther an experience even he was bewildered by.

“They were working on it forever and they called some other doctor and they were working on it forever, so there were definitely some problems. They brought over this thing to cauterize it and you could see, like, smoke coming out. It wasn’t good but it was super cheap,” Gunther explained with a laugh. “I’m not very confident that they were very good at what they were doing because they did a root canal and they were in there for like five hours and then they were like, ‘Come back tomorrow.’”

Ordering Gunther to stay yet another day for what seemed to be a simple dental procedure gave him a night to go to the hospital and get his hand looked at. A one day in and out for breaking his hand through the skin wasn’t exactly expected but John Gunther has made a life out of “the unexpected.”

Now in his second procedure of the day, Gunther still had the energy to try to explain to Spanish-speaking nurses and doctors that he had a fear of being put under. Despite his best efforts, he eventually found himself unconscious.

“I’m so nervous about getting knocked out,” Gunther explained. “I was like, ‘Can you just numb it on the hand?’ They were trying to explain to me that they don’t have the tool or something I’m not sure, they didn’t speak that good of English. They stuck a needle in my arm to try and hit a nerve and then they started cutting and it did not work at all. I was just trying to grit through it. They must have saw it because eventually I remember waking up, so they must have knocked me out.”

For those of you keeping score, Gunther was days into the trip of a lifetime that some don’t make it back from and had managed to not only make it only one country south but also cost himself a hand and a tooth in the process.

A week in Mexico, three dentist appointments and an emergency surgery were nothing compared to the concern over what he was going to do in Mexico with no transportation. Gunther rigged his bike up to his wrist to help accelerate since he could no longer close his hand. It was a decision left for only the desperate and creative.

On his way to the dentist for the final visit, Gunther made the most unlikely of friends that would save him from the most dangerous, miserable motorcycle rides of anybody’s life. A Canadian truck driver looking for another English-speaking person to talk to just happened to be driving north, through Ohio. Not only was Gunther thankful for the life-saving drive back to the States, he was equally as enthusiastic to learn about the man along the way.

John Gunther

John Gunther was one of the best known and most admired journalists of his day, and his series of "Inside" books, starting with Inside Europe in 1936, were immensely popular profiles of the major world powers. One critic noted that it was Gunther&aposs special gift to "unite the best qualities of the newspaperman and the historian." It was a gift that readers responded to enthusiastically. The "Inside" books sold 3,500,000 copies over a period of thirty years.

While publicly a bon vivant and modest celebrity, Gunther in his private life suffered disappointment and tragedy. He and Frances Fineman, whom he married in 1927, had a daughter who died four months after her birth in 1929. The Gunthers divorced in 1944. In 1947, their beloved son Johnny John Gunther was one of the best known and most admired journalists of his day, and his series of "Inside" books, starting with Inside Europe in 1936, were immensely popular profiles of the major world powers. One critic noted that it was Gunther's special gift to "unite the best qualities of the newspaperman and the historian." It was a gift that readers responded to enthusiastically. The "Inside" books sold 3,500,000 copies over a period of thirty years.

While publicly a bon vivant and modest celebrity, Gunther in his private life suffered disappointment and tragedy. He and Frances Fineman, whom he married in 1927, had a daughter who died four months after her birth in 1929. The Gunthers divorced in 1944. In 1947, their beloved son Johnny died after a long, heartbreaking fight with brain cancer. Gunther wrote his classic memoir Death Be Not Proud, published in 1949, to commemorate the courage and spirit of this extraordinary boy. Gunther remarried in 1948, and he and his second wife, Jane Perry Vandercook, adopted a son. . more

Inspired by John Gunther: An Interview with Mark Weisenmiller

Florida-based reporter and HNN alumnus Mark Weisenmiller is completing a nonfiction book about Africa, the Near East, and the European countries encircling the Mediterranean Sea. The book will be published in 2010. HNN contributor Aaron Leonard recently conducted an &lsquoe-interview&rsquo with him about the book.

What inspired you to write this?

Since boyhood, the &ldquoInside&rdquo books by John Gunther have been a source of inspiration for me and I always wanted to attempt a similar nonfiction literary project. Traveling and reporting from almost 40 different countries in my reporting career has served as a base, if you will, for this project. I plan to make this book the first of a series of nonfiction tomes, profiling different areas and countries of the world. In the subsequent books, the main editorial focuses will be, like this book, politics and history.

The Mediterranean in a sense joins man's different worlds what are the most striking differences among the countries you profile?

The most obvious difference is the domination of Islam in the African and Near Eastern countries, and the dominance of Christianity in the European countries. This is reflected not only in the religious theologies (obviously) but also how different aspects of these theologies intermingle and trickle down to everything in the countries populace lives, from what kind of jobs they have to even what they eat.

What is it these countries share?

This may be rather simplistic, but what these profiled countrys' populaces share is a desire for their respective countries to have healthy, robust economies and for people to have jobs. The editorial spine of this book, if you will, are the subjects of politics and history of the profiled countries. Something Alistair Cooke (another author/reporter) once wrote really struck me when I first read it, &ldquo Politics will undoubtedly bedevil us all till the day we die, but it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off those things for which we were presumably designed in the first place: I mean the opportunity to do good work, to fall in love, to enjoy friends, to read, to hit a ball, and to bounce the baby.&rdquo

That is really true, isn&rsquot it ? For a person to be really happy---whether he or she lives in any of this books profiled countries, or any other country---an over-abundance of materialistic goods is unnecessary but a job and some form of shelter for a person IS mandatory.

Another thing that these countries share is that many of them have political leaders who have been in power for many years: King Mohammed VI of Morocco Libya&rsquos President Colonel Moammar Gadhafi President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi---the list goes on and on.

In the January, 2010 edition of &ldquoEsquire&rdquo magazine, biographer and historian Robert Caro said &ldquo When you examine power, you are examining the very roots of why the world is where it is.&rdquo Caro&rsquos quote gets to some of the questions that I will be trying to answer. To wit: Who are the political leaders of the world ? WHY are they the political leaders of the world? What are they trying to do in their capacities as leaders of the world? Finally, who are some of the up-and-coming potential political leaders of the world ?

What areas were the most difficult to write about?

One problem that I wish I could overcome, in doing research for this book, is that I do not read, write, or speak Arabic and for many of this book&rsquos profiled countries, Arabic is the chief, or in some cases the official, language. It would be fun to be able to read Arabic-language books that have been written about some of these countries but, unfortunately, such is not going to be the case with this book.

So, at least for me, there is not one country more difficult than another in this book to write about. Rather, as I am doing all of my research for this book, the basic problem is deciding which reference books and resources, and other sources, to use and which ones to ignore.

After doing all this what is your level of skepticism and optimism about these varied countries and their place on this modest planet?

I am leery of countries whose leaders think that they can pursue a policy of belligerent nationalism. History shows that this particular political theory simply does not guarantee perpetual power, whether it be the Roman Empire or Nazi Germany.

As for optimism, in some regions of the world countries are pulling out of this so-called Great Recession. If you stop and think about it, when the world was really sunk deep in this gumbo morass of economic problems, that would have been excellent cause for people living in this book&rsquos profiled countries, as well as people living in other countries of the world, to revolt, to try to create political parties devoted to toppling governments. I have often wondered why this did not, or has not happened in large numbers.

So, despite overwhelming surface evidence to the contrary, one must be optimistic about politicians and people trying hard to think of ideas to better both their countries economies and also their own social status. To put it another way, optimism eventually leads to answers in solving problems, while devout pessimism (which has always seemed to me to be an intellectual cop-out) leads to stomach ulcers.

The ‘German Mussolini’

Mussolini’s success in Italy normalized Hitler’s success in the eyes of the American press who, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, routinely called him “the German Mussolini.” Given Mussolini’s positive press reception in that period, it was a good place from which to start. Hitler also had the advantage that his Nazi party enjoyed stunning leaps at the polls from the mid '20’s to early '30’s, going from a fringe party to winning a dominant share of parliamentary seats in free elections in 1932.

But the main way that the press defanged Hitler was by portraying him as something of a joke. He was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance, according to Newsweek, “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” His “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” stated Cosmopolitan.

When Hitler’s party won influence in Parliament, and even after he was made chancellor of Germany in 1933 – about a year and a half before seizing dictatorial power – many American press outlets judged that he would either be outplayed by more traditional politicians or that he would have to become more moderate. Sure, he had a following, but his followers were “impressionable voters” duped by “radical doctrines and quack remedies,” claimed The Washington Post. Now that Hitler actually had to operate within a government the “sober” politicians would “submerge” this movement, according to The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor. A “keen sense of dramatic instinct” was not enough. When it came to time to govern, his lack of “gravity” and “profundity of thought” would be exposed.

In fact, The New York Times wrote after Hitler’s appointment to the chancellorship that success would only “let him expose to the German public his own futility.” Journalists wondered whether Hitler now regretted leaving the rally for the cabinet meeting, where he would have to assume some responsibility.

Yes, the American press tended to condemn Hitler’s well-documented anti-Semitism in the early 1930s. But there were plenty of exceptions. Some papers downplayed reports of violence against Germany’s Jewish citizens as propaganda like that which proliferated during the foregoing World War. Many, even those who categorically condemned the violence, repeatedly declared it to be at an end, showing a tendency to look for a return to normalcy.

Journalists were aware that they could only criticize the German regime so much and maintain their access. When a CBS broadcaster’s son was beaten up by brownshirts for not saluting the Führer, he didn’t report it. When the Chicago Daily News’ Edgar Mowrer wrote that Germany was becoming “an insane asylum” in 1933, the Germans pressured the State Department to rein in American reporters. Allen Dulles, who eventually became director of the CIA, told Mowrer he was “taking the German situation too seriously.” Mowrer’s publisher then transferred him out of Germany in fear of his life.

By the later 1930s, most U.S. journalists realized their mistake in underestimating Hitler or failing to imagine just how bad things could get. (Though there remained infamous exceptions, like Douglas Chandler, who wrote a loving paean to “Changing Berlin” for National Geographic in 1937.) Dorothy Thompson, who judged Hitler a man of “startling insignificance” in 1928, realized her mistake by mid-decade when she, like Mowrer, began raising the alarm.

“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance,” she reflected in 1935. “He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will.” Applying the lesson to the U.S., she wrote, “When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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