The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Monday, October 31, 2005

Review

Maybe not a full review, but I'll say that the book struck me pretty powerfully. To some extent, I think this review, from The Times Literary Supplement captures it:
Bill Clinton has written two books: a beguiling memoir of growing up in the South and becoming a young Arkansas politician, and a tedious account of being President of the United States....[T]he memoir bounces along nicely for several hundred pages, as Clinton goes to college, serves as a junior aide for J. William Fulbright's Senate office, takes up his Rhodes Scholarship, and works towards becoming Governor of Arkansas in 1979. Indeed, if these pages had been published as a separate book, many would think that Clinton has contributed a classic of Southern political memoir.

via Powells
I strongly disagree with the connotation of "tedious," but there's no question that what is an engaging, even emotional, read for the first few hundred pages becomes more of a slog, like a detailed, semi-academic history of some long-ago war. Even that's unfair - it's covering events that aren't long-ago, and still-active players from Rahm Emanuel to Tom DeLay cavort across its pages. But, where I'd recommend the pre-Presidential years to anyone, I think you have to be at least something of a wonk to love the second half.

As it happens, the paperback version reflects this, being split into two halves. What I'd say is that pretty much everyone should try Part One, and if you like the gubernatorial years, go ahead and give Part Two a try. Among other things, the view of the Middle East negotiations, and to a lesser extent the Northern Ireland as well, is fascinating. And it's important to be reminded of little facts from recent history, like that not a single Republican voted for the '93 budget that set the country on track for a balanced budget. So next time some blowhard trots out the BS about how "Gingrich forced Clinton to balance the budget," simply point out that it's 100% false.