A collection of name-dropping nuggets from John Kenneth Galbraith

A View From the Stands, by John Kenneth Galbraith. Arranged and edited by Andrea D. Williams. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 419 pp. $22.95. If you are looking for some delicious writing, served up in small pieces for bedside reading or a short plane ride, don't overlook this book. It is a collection of things John Kenneth Galbraith has been writing through the years. The longest bit is 10 pages. Most are two or three; some only a single paragraph. As I thumbed through it I started looking for a dull bit -- unsuccessfully.

This is not about economics, although there is some of that, well spiced with irony. Much of it is just about people. It ranges from what some might consider an unfriendly piece about Richard Nixon (``...he pictured himself as a man of impeccable virtue, but he was always given to overstatement''), to Eleanor Roosevelt (``I never came into her presence without a certain sense of trepidation'').

In between is a friendly tribute to Lord Montbatten, which notes, however, that in his rise to fame as a destroyer commander, ``he began to compile one of the war's most remarkable records of disaster. This stemmed from his tendency to proceed at high speed and without evident prior thought to what, in the way of other ships, mines, or enemies he might encounter.''

Galbraith records that he ``once saw my friends Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy, Harry Levin and Arthur Schlesinger, all stretched out on the sand and, most improbably, talking only at intervals.''

In a review of a book about Charles de Gaulle, Galbraith reprints a series of excerpts that pile garbled metaphor upon bombastic adverb and inappropriate adjective culminating in the author's statement that ``I am convinced that de Gaulle believed in the nobility of his cause.'' And Galbraith ends: ``I am convinced that the noble course for me is to pursue the matter no further.''

While this book shows a detectable trace of anti-Republican bias, it is lovely and easy reading and well deserves some sort of literary prize.

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