[T]he editors of the book have wisely chosen to present the FBI files without much comment. The dossiers are simply reproduced, with their typographical features retained. For the most part, we’re given a lot of bad typing and crude writing, with many redacted passages and names. Agents sign their initials to say that the files have been duly read. Exactly what action might be taken against the authors under surveillance is mostly unclear. There is often a good deal of absurdity at play, and it’s entertaining... Taken as a whole, this collection of files on major American writers tells a depressing story of law enforcement run amok. The US government, in the form of the FBI, has consistently sought to silence its critics. The death of Hoover in 1972 did much to improve the situation. But the story of FBI intervention in American politics and political discourse is hardly over, as we recently saw with the intrusions of James Comey, who was fired from his job as director, though not before he personally intervened to help squelch the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. God save us from the FBI.
As can be gathered, this remarkable volume makes for compulsive and deeply unsettling reading. Compiled by MuckRock, a laudable and important “non-profit collaborative news site”, its editors have used the still viable and crucial US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain the manifold files which show that even a right-wing true believer such as the infamous Ayn Rand didn’t escape Hoover’s concern – over her “vocal atheism”.