Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oops! Wolffe's 2nd book disappoints

Richard Wolffe’s Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House

A terrible book! Wolffe tries to do the impossible and fails. Wish he’d tried a different approach. While his summary, narrative flow of the campaign underlined much of what we all followed in the news, his attempt to go inside the White House using a similar narrative approach is generally chaotic and lacking in helpful analysis. I expect the Obama WH was chaotic during its first year but the journalist who attempts to report on that chaos needs to seek and find themes to organize the chaos for his readers. Yes, there are passages where Wolffe cuts to the chase, but mostly I found the book a disorganized ramble. 


Richard Wolffe’s Renegade: The Making of a President

An impressive book. Well written and seemingly even-handed tho I'm sure the right screams it's worshipful. It's organized by thematic chapters that have a rough correspondence to the primary and general campaigns, but there is some back and forth that's a little confusing.

I come away even more in awe of Obama and his intelligence and values. An amazing man.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American

Nicely written. The psychiatrist narrator ruminates about his father’s youth while he and his sister go to great lengths to discover the secret he took to his death.

I must agree with the Amazon reviewer who wrote that the book was ”Interesting But Not Totally Satisfying.”  The title is not helpful. This book defies titling. Virtually all the characters seemed normal--experiencing rather mild sorrows that didn’t warrant the trauma designation the publisher gave them. Such is life. And if these Americans had these sorrows, what do we call the routine tragedies of the normal lives of the citizens of so many other countries? Iraq? Burundi? Bangladesh? Perhaps this is the author’s message.
So there. I have been reading...

The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity
by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

While I was happy to learn the substance of these two journalists’ reporting, I was horrified by the poor copy editing and dismayed by their over-the-top Time-esque writing style. I find this outrageous in a book listed at $32.50. Shame on Simon & Shuster. Our publishers need to climb off this slippery slope.

Gibbs and Duffy present mostly heart-warming stories of presidents reaching out to and bonding with their predecessors. In this fraternity all but Nixon and Carter instinctively observe the etiquette. The searing burdens of the office forge deep understandings that transcend politics and personalities. Even news junkies are likely to have fresh insights into the characters of our presidents from Hoover to Obama (excepting Roosevelt who, of course, never lived to join the club).

Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains

This short book (272 pp.) is two books in one. In the first Kidder masterfully tells Deo’s mind-bending story of escape from the horrors of genocide only to endure the horrors of NYC. In the second he explains how he was able to learn Deo’s story in such incredible detail. For detail is Kidder’s forte. He digs into his material like no other writer, and he produces masterpieces that pull you in or leave you exhausted from their detail. I loved this book and his House.

I was deeply moved by the amazing kindness of the three New Yorkers who reached out to Deo and enabled him to thrive and return to his homeland on missions of mercy. After reading the book, do not miss the brief online interviews of three who made the difference between Deo’s barely existing and achieving great good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcAQFNLacfw

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Sister of my Heart

Flawless writing, lovely story, nice mix of dreamy and tough. A high-quality beach read. More YA than literary. Oh, the horrors of rigid class lines and the resulting oppression; of arranged marriages and nasty mothers-in-law and sons who are under their mothers’ thumbs; and the personal and cultural losses of emigration to the USA.

Oh, how quickly two months can zoom by! The greatest challenge of writing a blog. Impossible to post often enough.