It’s with more than average interest that I just read a review of David Maraniss’ new book about his father Elliott, A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father. I knew Elliott during my years in Madison as a contributing writer to his newspaper, the Capital Times, and as an informal sounding board for his thoughts on the New Left. The period in question was the early 1970s.
First, Elliott was the most visibly nervous person I had ever met. He talked quickly in a loud but skittish voice, and his usual facial expression was a half-smile that seemed to reflect a deep uncertainty about everyone and everything. Of course, he held a position of authority—editor—and he was able to make decisions rapidly and with conviction. Still, it always seemed there was something more going on; I had no idea.