California Literary Review

Profile of Peter Bridges


Peter Bridges is a former ambassador to Somalia, and cofounder of the Elk Mountains Hikers Club in Colorado. He was born in New Orleans, grew up in Chicago, and studied at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. Aside from CLR, his articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in the “Christian Science Monitor,” “Foreign Service Journal,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Michigan Quarterly Review,” “Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London,” “Virginia Quarterly Review,” “Washington Times,” and elsewhere.

Articles written for the California Literary Review:

  • Book Review: Mike Wallace, A Life by Peter Rader
    Posted on 02 Jul 2012 in Biography, Books, Non-Fiction Reviews

    He suffered, too, the tragic loss of his oldest child, Peter, who disappeared while backpacking across Europe after his sophomore year at Yale. His father went looking for him in Greece, where he had last been seen–and it was Mike Wallace himself who found his son’s body beneath a precipice that had given way and sent him to his death.

  • Book Review: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
    Posted on 19 Jan 2012 in Biography, Books, History, Non-Fiction Reviews

    George Frost Kennan was one of the most influential of all American diplomats, as well as an historian and writer who won two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes. It was Kennan who, first in his “long telegram” sent from the American embassy at Moscow in February 1946, and then in his anonymous “X” article in Foreign Affairs the following year, laid out for policy-makers, and then for the American public, the true nature of Stalinism and Soviet policy at a time when some still took a benevolent view of our wartime Soviet ally.

  • Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame
    Posted on 15 Oct 2009 in Biography, History, Non-Fiction Reviews

    Never perhaps has there been such a masterful account of the man’s failures—and successes—in this country’s most taxing job. Look what Burlingame says he did in just his first hundred days in office: “…he raised and supplied an army, sent it into battle, held the Border States in the Union, helped thwart Confederate attempts to win European diplomatic recognition, declared a blockade, asserted leadership over his cabinet, dealt effectively with Congress, averted a potential crisis with Great Britain, and eloquently articulated the nature and purpose of the war.”

  • Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting by John Maxwell Hamilton
    Posted on 16 Sep 2009 in History, Non-Fiction Reviews, Russia

    Not all of the foreign correspondents for American papers were themselves American. Karl Marx contributed almost five hundred articles on the European scene to Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune during the years between 1852 and 1861. This was after Marx had published the Communist Manifesto and was working on Das Kapital; but his reportage for Greeley, though left-leaning, looks to a modern reader relatively objective.

  • Dear President-Elect Obama, We Need Trains, Too!
    Posted on 15 Jan 2009 in Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics

    President-elect Obama said in his radio address on Saturday, January 10, that “We’ll put nearly 400,000 people to work by repairing our infrastructure–our crumbling roads, bridges and schools.” What about our passenger train system, that lags sadly behind other developed countries–and is far worse than what Americans enjoyed decades ago?

  • Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson
    Posted on 04 Jan 2009 in History, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews

    Lincoln came to the Presidency without any real military experience. He had been an Illinois militia captain in the Black Hawk War of 1832 but as he said in self-deprecation to his fellow Members of Congress in 1848, his combat record amounted to “charges upon the wild onions” and “a good many struggles with the musketoes.”

  • Engaging, Not Confronting, Russia
    Posted on 15 Sep 2008 in Iran, Israel, Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics, Russia

    The West would exacerbate rather than ease this problem if it brought Georgia into NATO. Nor should we try to bring Ukraine into NATO. Ukraine is now independent and recognized by the world as such, but for most of its history its relationship with Russia has been, to say the least, very close; Kiev was the capital of the first Russian state. One assumes the Europeans will continue to prevent either Georgia or Ukraine from joining NATO; but this has not stopped George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and John McCain from continuing to push the idea.

  • A Boy’s View of a World War
    Posted on 15 Jul 2008 in Biography, History, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews

    The three Libby’s men were the first American businessmen to receive Allied permits to travel to the Continent. They spent most of the summer there. My father kept a journal that was full of business data but also recorded tragic scenes, including the crowds of people walking down Dutch roads, coming back from forced labor in Germany, and the almost total desolation in Hamburg, where Allied bombing raids had killed perhaps fifty thousand people and a million others fled the city.

  • Notes from Italy: A Homer of the Dolomites
    Posted on 28 Apr 2008 in History, Italy, Mythology, Non-Fiction Reviews

    Some say that the story of the Kingdom of Fanes is an epic that goes back to the Bronze Age in the Dolomites. How could such a story come down to us? No one in those parts knew writing, three thousand years ago or more. We don’t even know what languages people spoke then in the Dolomites. And what kind of kingdom could that have been?

  • Worries of a Liberal Conservative
    Posted on 17 Mar 2008 in Non-Fiction Reviews, Politics

    My friend objects that “Islamofascists” will never change their ways. Sure, there are deadly and dangerous people out there (and also here), but they may not always be so. Members of Italy’s Red Brigades, who were targeting Americans when I last worked in Rome, decided to turn to sales or accounting after their movement failed to attract public support and the government began to grab them. One former terrorist, Menachem Begin, later got the Nobel Peace Prize; another, Michael Collins, is revered as a creator of independent Ireland. Do I speak lightly about such things? I have lost four friends and former colleagues to terrorism. How many have you lost?

  • Notes From Italy: Villains, Romance, and Views
    Posted on 07 Feb 2008 in Africa, History, Italy, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews, Travel, Writers

    Filettino was not always a happy place, in history or in fiction. In the time of the Caesars the people here were Aequi, an Italic tribe of rough herders whom the Romans subdued with difficulty. For many centuries, probably millennia, the Aequi practiced transhumance, leading their herds over the Serra in late autumn to spend the winter in pastures in the Liri valley far below, and returning to the uplands for summer.

  • Notes from Italy: Getting into the Mountains
    Posted on 10 Jan 2008 in Italy, Nature, Non-Fiction Reviews

    I did not know that Neanderthals once lived hereabouts; that farmers first settled here six thousand years ago; that nearby, down on the Campagna, the Gauls defeated the Romans in 390 B.C. before going on to take Rome itself. I knew dimly that the Allied forces had fought the Wehrmacht in these parts in 1944, but not that the day before the Americans took Marcellina, the Germans rounded up all the village men they could find and shot them in reprisal for the killing of two German grenadiers.

  • A Place for Three Seasons: Crested Butte
    Posted on 04 Dec 2007 in Nature, Non-Fiction Reviews, Sports, Travel

    Let us be clear on one thing: physically fit people tend to get more out of this place. One can sit and admire the mountains from a bench on Elk Avenue, or from a car out on the summer roads, but to me there is nothing better in life than walking an hour or two up to Scarp Ridge or the long green alp atop Mount Axtell, to sit and see high peaks all around.

  • Notes From Italy: Some Old Envoys
    Posted on 29 Nov 2007 in History, Italy, Non-Fiction Reviews

    Counts who stank of garlic–as did the whole country–had sponged on him for seats in his box at the opera. He was meeting diplomats who had “titles as long as a flagstaff, and heads as empty as their hearts.” These were strictly private comments, Daniel told Peticolas, and none of it should get into the papers. All of it did, in Richmond and soon in Turin. Now it was not garlic but what people called “the garlic letter” that caused a stink.

  • The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson
    Posted on 14 Nov 2007 in History, Italy, Military, Non-Fiction Reviews

    This long, well documented book by Rick Atkinson is one of the best accounts of any war to appear in the last decade or more.

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