Vietnam historian Stanley Karnow plans his memoir

Historians in the News

Stanley Karnow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and longtime foreign correspondent, is trying to think of a good title for a planned memoir.

One candidate: "Interesting Times."

"You know what the Chinese curse is? `May you live in interesting times,'" he says.

Interesting times: covering the war in Vietnam, from the first Americans killed, in 1959; traveling to China for President Richard M. Nixon's 1972 visit; Karnow's friendship with Corazon Aquino, who in the 1980s became president of the Philippines and an international heroine.

For now, he has settled on "Out of Asia" as a title, a tribute to a book he admires, Isak Dinesen's "Out of Africa," and a concise summary for the author of one of the defining texts on the Vietnam War, and a Pulitzer winner in 1990 for "In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines."

Karnow has not published a book since "Paris in the Fifties," a memoir that came out in 1997. The silence was unplanned. He tried writing a history of Asians in the United States, but decided that an Asian was more suited for the job. He attempted a book on Jewish humor, "a marvelous book," but never advanced beyond an outline.

He also had personal reasons. His wife, Annette, became ill with cancer and Karnow spent the last few years caring for her. Annette Karnow, an artist and diplomat, died in July.

So at age 84, Stanley Karnow, whose round, sad eyes brighten when he tells a favorite story, has been going through papers and writing on a computer in his cellar, a place he calls "Santa's Workshop."

"Working on the book is my therapy," he says.

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