Jay Parini

Feds under the Bed

Writers Under Surveillance: The FBI Files


MIT Press 375pp £20 order from our bookshop

There is a long history of FBI meddling in the affairs of public intellectuals in America, and it’s not a happy one. State surveillance of writers and political activists (such as Martin Luther King Jr) became an obsession under the bizarre and dictatorial leadership of J Edgar Hoover, who served as director from its inception until 1972, a reign of error that became distinctly creepy, characterised by the pursuit of anyone who offered a serious critique of American power or ‘the American way of life’ as conceived by right-leaning, white and usually straight men in dark suits.

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