Losing Sight
Gaining Insight

Henry Grunwald

Henry Grunwald was editor in chief of Time Magazine, and U. S. Ambassador to Austria. Starting in 1992, his vision began to turn muddy --- and soon enough he was diagnosed as having macular degeneration. (It is said that 15,000,000 other Americans suffer from this disease.) Reading was his life --- he was primarily an editor --- and the loss of vision was particularly disasterous to him.

Writing about being disabled is a tricky business. One cannot --- or should not --- let the self-pity show through. One must tell an interesting story for, indeed, nothing can be more tedious than to hear an individual go on (and on) about medical problems. Finally, one must show oneself as human and humane: the reader must care for the person telling the story --- for none of us are interested in a klutz, no matter how tragic?

The hangup in Twilight is not about a powerful individual going blind. That is in and of itself a story with interest. The problem, rather, is with the author. He wants us to know that he started at the bottom at Time, as a copy-boy --- and soon enough, ended up running the whole operation. He is eager for us to know that he has famous friends:

    At a party several years ago, I walked up to a tall, striking blonde and was on the point of saying, "Hi, Diane." I thought I was facing my friend Diane Sawyer but stopped myself at the last moment when I heard someone addressing her as "Ma'am" and realized that I was confronting Diana, Princess of Wales."


  • Diane Sawyer is an old friend;
  • I also go to parties where the late Princess Diana turned up; thus,
  • I am an important person who hangs around with important people.

He also wants us to know about him and Art:

    Faced with the View of Delft, I cannot find that yellow area that so transfixed Proust's character. Rembrant is mostly undifferentiated gloom except for the occasionally sharp hightlight, and in Fra Angelico I can discern the robes of a Madonna but not her fatures...Many portraits, like the ones by Titian or Mermling, seem to burst out of a fog and seize me with a sudden power. The same is true of Georges de La Tour's sharp contrasts and Vermeer's illumined details...

Message: I know my Art; I know the names of all the important Artists; I'm cultured.

Fifty years ago, Time Magazine had a powerful effect on the national and international affairs of this country. It's anti-Communist stance --- especially in China, Latin America, and in the Far East --- grew out of Henry Luce's ability to turn a newsmagazine into an organ of regressive, not to say repressive, international militancy. Henry Grunwald was part of this. To him and the Time organization we owe fifty years of destructive militancy that skewed this country's economics, and wreaked havoc on the world. The turmoil we see to this day in Iran, Central America, and Africa are partially the result of Luce's neo-colonial attitude, fomented through the aegis of the State Department and the CIA.

Grunwald was a deeply involved part of that mischief. He may be writing a sad story about his own personal misfortune, but, all the same, his arrogance shows through. We can only hope that as he ages, this arrogance might melt some under the truth of his (and everyone else's) human condition.

--- L. W. Milam

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