When Daniel Patrick Moynihan died in 2003 the Economist described him as "a philosopher-politician-diplomat who two centuries earlier would not have been out of place among the Founding Fathers." Though the four-term Senator from New York never wrote an autobiography, he was a gifted author and voluminous correspondent, and in this selection from his letters Steven Weisman has compiled a vivid portrait of Moynihan's life, in the senator's own words.
"There can be no better bedside collection for anyone who is interested in the history of America and the world in the second half of the 20th century—or in a life lived bravely."—Economist (London)
"Students of history, philosophy and literature will find it hard to resist Mr. Moynihan's endless musings and eyewitness accounts of pivotal moments in 20th-century history, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to India's ascent as a nuclear power."—NYTimes
"Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary will probably be read more widely and for longer, and certainly with greater pleasure, than any of the others on the Moynihan shelf.... The Moynihan papers are the largest one-man collection in the Library of Congress—ten thousand pages, enough to lay a paper trail from the White House to the Capitol. From this mother lode of foolscap, the journalist Steven R. Weisman has sculpted a work of coherence and energy.... [The] tensions and crosscuttings make for a stimulating book, just as they made for an adventurous mind and an eventful life."—The New Yorker
"His letters recorded the evolving intellectual adventure of a restless mind. Moynihan explored the grand themes of history and tried to understand the times in the most ambitious of ways: the cultural implications of the shift from the industrial to the post-industrial society, the disaffection of the intellectual class, the foreign policy implications of ethnic tension in the post-communist world.... The letters make for absorbing reading because Moynihan's grand ideas were always driven by his own internal tensions. It was as if he were writing an intensely personal memoir but was phrasing his discoveries in the language of Samuel Huntington.... This whole collection has been put together with superb care. While writing this review, I've been cursing Weisman's introduction for its mastery in highlighting all the crucial points in Moynihan's life. It is hard to write anything about this book that doesn't repeat that fine essay. Weisman has also written superb contextual paragraphs between the letters, so even people unfamiliar with Moynihan's career will be able to follow along easily.... He remains an exemplar for those who find that their lives and views don't fit neatly into a partisan camp, a guiding model for hybrids past and future."—NYTBR