Books: Tragedy and Farce

A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEARS

by STEFAN KANFER 306 pages. Atheneum. $7.95.

"Farce is tragedy out for a good time." So begins Stefan Kanfer's chronicle of one of the saddest, stupidest chapters of American political history —a time when the political blacklist was used in show biz in the 1940s and '50s and how that came about.

The proceedings grew out of the peculiar frenzy that seized America during the early cold war years, and an attempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to suggest that many actors and writers were...

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