Iffy Izzy

American Radical

The Life and Times of I. F. Stone

D. D. Guttenplan

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35, 592 pp.

The legend of I. F. Stone, the feisty investigative journalist, cannot fail to have a certain resonance for anyone who has ever been caught up in the romance of newspapers. After the last progressive newspaper to employ him collapsed in 1952 and no other paper would hire him, the forty-five-year-old leftist radical started his own newsletter. Within a few years, I. F. Stone’s Weekly began to turn a profit as well as turn up scoops; and eventually, thanks to the anti–Vietnam War movement and his own tireless investigative and polemical labors (as well as an assist from the New York Review of Books), Stone rose to fame and fortune and enthusiastic acceptance by the journalistic and intellectual establishment.

So great is the appeal of the mythic Stone that D. D. Guttenplan’s American Radical is the third admiring biography to appear in the two decades since Stone’s death. Guttenplan’s rendition is distinguished by his own extensive digging into Stone’s journalistic past and its context, and by his insistence that Stone’s radicalism is at least as estimable as his investigative journalism. “If journalism was his medium,” Guttenplan says, “his message was unfailingly political.” And so it was—which is in large part why his journalistic sainthood is so dubious.

For all his later admonitions against being seduced by the powerful, young Stone (or...

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About the Author

Robert K. Landers is the author of An Honest Writer: The Life and Times of James T. Farrell (Encounter Books).