Of G-Men and Eggheads: The FBI and the New York Intellectuals (University of Illinois Press), by John Rodden
John Rodden spends altogether too many words defending the existence of his slender book, which investigates FBI surveillance of three prominent midcentury intellectuals: Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald and Irving Howe. Rather than fret over the narrowness of his focus, Rodden might simply have framed Of G-Men and Eggheads as three case studies in the FBI’s incomprehension of the intelligentsia—a point he well makes throughout the book. His subjects associated with the far left in their youth but never posed a security risk and became vociferous critics of the Soviet system after its crimes became apparent. As Rodden makes clear, the FBI might have saved time and taxpayers money if they had bothered to read the writings of the trio instead of laboring to open their letters and trail them on the streets. The G-Men of Rodden’s book come across as more dumb than dangerous.