K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist

By Peter Carlson
Read by Malcolm Hillgartner

10.83 Hours 06/02/2009 unabridged
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Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted—“a surreal extravaganza,” as one historian 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.

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Summary

Summary

Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted—“a surreal extravaganza,” as one historian 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.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Carlson seems to have sought and discovered every piece of arcana associated with the Soviet leader’s American sojourn. A deft and amusing writer, Carlson does a marvelous job of recounting it.” Washington Post
“Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist may be the most entertaining historical account you’ll ever read.” Washington Post’s Express
“The linked sketches of Khrushy’s boozy, mercurial meanderings through New York, Hollywood, and the Iowa State Fair are jaw-dropping in an era of stage-managed diplomacy. Well beyond travelogue, the book is also a portrait of a more naive, optimistic nation in the heat of the nuclear age.” Boston Globe
“Fast-paced, delightfully sardonic, and thoroughly enjoyable…It’s a revealing portrait of a treacherous decade when the media—especially nascent television, whose news departments seldom questioned the views of the government that controlled their broadcast licenses—were almost as innocent as they were influential.” Boston Phoenix
“K Blows Top by Peter Carlson is a hilarious, accomplished account of this epic journey of ‘a stranger in a strange land’ as he puts it, one of the most important and, inadvertently, one of the funniest state visits of all time.” Financial Times
“Hilarious…due in equal parts to Khrushchev’s outsized provocateur personality and the bizarre and thoroughly American reaction to his visit…In Carlson’s hands the Cold War is a surprisingly laughing matter.” Publishers Weekly
“The book is consistently informative and funny, but there are episodes that are strangely surreal…a fine example of popular history at its most engaging—anecdotal but informative and written with great feeling for the comedic side of current events.” Booklist (starred review)
“For anyone interested in this remarkable moment in the long history of US–Soviet relations, Carlson’s book is a treat!” Library Journal (starred review)
“This book recreates in vivid detail one of the most astonishing figures in our recent history. The Communist leader’s storming of America can be enjoyed by everyone but especially those with memories of that singular episode in the winding down of the Cold War.” Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst, National Public Radio
“[An] entertaining and informative story about ‘inviting the enemy into our camp.’ Both the humorous and explosive sides of the Russian leader’s personality give narrator Malcolm Hillgartner ample material for his clever impersonation and faux accent. A studied parody of Nixon’s unmistakable muttering chimes in here and there as well. Hillgartner’s appropriate humor and announcer’s voice act like a tour guide to American life and politics during the Cold War of the 1950s.” AudioFile
“Carlson’s account is extremely well researched and includes interviews with a number of participants, most notably Khrushchev’s son, Sergei. Many of the accounts and memos he quotes are from State Department historical documents. His book is enlivened by many direct quotes from Khrushchev and others. Anyone interested in cultural exchange, international diplomacy and fine writing should enjoy this unique book.” BookPage

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson is a former journalist and feature writer for the Washington Post and People magazine. He is the author of Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood and co-author—with Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, among others—of The Gospel According to ESPN. He lives in Rockville, Maryland.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction/History
Runtime: 10.83
Audience: Adult
Language: English