Harry and Bonaro Overstreet, Alexander King, James Bryant Conant

Monday, April 13, 1959

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Irita Van Doren introduces Harry and Bonaro Overstreet, authors of "What We Must Know about Communism." She notes that, while the book was published a year previous year, an article by Roscoe Drummond (which appeared only a few months prior to this event), prompted the sale of thousands volumes. The Overstreets' backgrounds are in adult education, they reference this several times throughout their speech.

The Overstreets speak together about the "saga" of writing the book and the journey into the Communist ideology. They discuss their realization that what they knew about communism was a "half-knowledge." They refute Winston Churchill's description of Communism as a "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" (they don't get the quote quite right). Rather, they agree with Karl Marx's assessment that Communism is out in the open. They also discuss the influence of Lenin on their concepts of Communism. They describe their methods of research, which required that they understand all of the complex mechanisms behind the ideas they were trying to understand.

The relate their fears that the book would not be well-received, but their relief once positive and encouraging reviews were published.

Van Doren then introduces Alexander King, author of "Mine Enemy Grows Older." The book is an autobiographical account of his years as an addict and time at the Lexington rehabilitation hospital. The story is a collection of non-sequential vignettes. King, a humorist, speaks of his "helter skelter" life, his views on art, and his view that one does not choose to be an artist, but one is infected by art.

Next, Van Doren introduces James Bryant Conant, author of A Study of the American High School. Conant, scientist and former president of Harvard University describes his study of high schools makes recommendations for the secondary schooling system. Including better instruction in foreign languages, one full time counselor for every 250-300 students, and larger high schools.

Conant describes his years spent living in Germany and the difficulty he found when trying to describe the American education system. The liberal arts colleges, for example, had no similarities with European universities. He had special difficulties describing the comprehensive high school.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70961
Municipal archives id: LT8570

Hosted by:

Irita Taylor Van Doren


Alexander King, Bonaro W. Overstreet and H. A. Overstreet


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About Books and Authors Luncheon

Hear, first-hand, the thoughts and voices of some of the greatest thinkers, adventurers, and characters of our nation.

Legendary New York Herald-Tribune book review editor Irita Van Doren, moderator of the series [1949-1968], has an intellectual largesse and a genuine interest in the American literary arts, which produces engaging, sometimes off-beat discussions with both first-time and veteran authors. 

In addition to literary writers like Louis Auchincloss, James Michener, and Rachel Carson, listeners are enthralled by nonliterary experts speaking on their autobiographies.  Sammy Davis, Jr., expounds on Yes, I Can!; burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee entertains audiences while promoting Gypsy, A Memoir; and sociologist Vance Packard defends his groundbreaking exposé on advertising, The Hidden Persuaders. 

Those notable personalities join a slew of others like Steve Allen, Marian Anderson, Bennett Cerf, Noel Coward, Jules Feiffer, Edna Ferber, A. E. Hotchner, Fannie Hurst, Jane Jacobs, Somerset Maugham, Vladimir Nabokov, Gore Vidal, Jessamyn West, and Marguerite Young.  An indispensable catalog of craft talk and biographical context, the New York Herald-Tribune Books and Authors Luncheon series explores all manner of disciplines and issues in American arts and history.


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