Books: Fat Pickings

SKETCHES FROM A LIFE

by George F. Kennan

Pantheon; 365 pages; $22.95

Dr. Anton Chekhov once remarked that medicine was his wife and literature his mistress. Ambassador George F. Kennan, 85, acknowledges that his own situation is "analogous, except that the mistress was far less beautiful than Chekhov's and had to content herself with much smaller pickings."

Kennan's statement contains his typical amalgam of self-effacement and presumption. The diplomat and historian has written 17 books on 19th and 20th century foreign policy; he knows very well that his current "pickings" contain 61 years of incomparable observations. He was in Germany when...

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