Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rest In Peace, Mr. Halberstam.

Journalist and author David Halberstam was killed in a car crash near the Menlo Park area of California yesterday, and it kind of speaks to his ethic that he was on the job while doing so: a Cal student was giving him a lift to an interview with Y.A. Tittle when the car they were in was broadsided. He wrote over 20 books in his career, many dealing with sport, but I've never read any of his sports books.

The only book I've read of Halberstam's happens to be the one he'll probably be remembered most for, and rightfully so -- I took a Vietnam War 300-level history course during my senior year of college, and Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest was one of the required texts for the class, an incisive look at how the men running foreign policy had assumptions and beliefs that dragged America into a questionable war that the country still has not gotten over (please see the debates over Iraq if you don't buy that last sentence.)

The irony of the Newsweek appreciation I've linked to, in my politically left-leaning eyes, is this:

Halberstam, who died yesterday in a car crash in California in between lecturing journalism students and reporting for a new book, had a way of cutting to the truth—and letting you know about it...He would not have hesitated to tell the new ambassador that the Diem regime was corrupt and the American effort in Vietnam was weak and had stalled. He routinely accused generals of lying. He was such a thorn in the side of the Kennedy administration that President Kennedy tried to get the newspaper to transfer Halberstam from Saigon. (The Times refused, and Halberstam won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage in 1964.)

And yet another of the journalists who would do his or her job leaves the mortal coil...

Other appreciations: Deadspin, With Leather, One More Dying Quail.


One More Dying Quail said...

Thanks, as always, for the link.

Like you, my exposure to Halberstam was somewhat limited, but I read enough to realize that he was a very good writer and story teller.

The Best and the Brightest has definitely been added to my "must read" list.

Signal to Noise said...

They've stopped making writers like him, at least ones that do any sort of journalistic work.

You'll enjoy The Best and the Brightest.