|Tonight on TDS,David Nasaw, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy; and on TCR, Jake Tapper, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.|
|Damn. So -- not only do I have to pick up blogging again after the 5-ish day thanksgiving weekend that always throws me off, despite living through it my entire life (except maybe the retail hell years); not only did TDS decide not to make this week's guest list available until this afternoon, limiting my writing-in-advance time; not only do both of tonight's guests have serious(ish) books to write about -- but on top of that, I've got a brand new migraine, courtesy of tomorrow's expected snowstorm.
It's like an opposite-world Dayenu.
Following the success of Nasaw's 2000 biography of William Randolph Hearst, Senator Ted Kennedy approached Nasaw to write a biography of his father, Kennedy patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy. Nasaw told the family that as an academic historian, he had no interest in writing an "authorized biography". "I told him I would undertake this project if I had guarantees to see all the documents at the Kennedy Library and elsewhere, and if I were free to write whatever I wanted, with no censorship or interference of any kind," Nasaw said. Senator Kennedy said he had read and admired Nasaw's book on Hearst and believed the historian would make a "fair evaluation of his life and contributions." The Kennedy family agreed to sit for interviews, and to make available Joseph Kennedy's private papers.There's plenty of stuff out there on The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy. Here's the Kirkus review (via B&N):
Sprawling, highly readable biography of the dynast and larger-than-life figure whose presence still haunts American political life. Working from his subject's extensive archives, Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie, 2006, etc.) pieces together a sometimes-sympathetic, sometimes-critical view of Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), father of John F. Kennedy and most definitely a man of parts. Born into wealth, he learned the ropes in the banking business before heading to Hollywood to try his hand at filmmaking. In the last pursuit, he charted only some successes, but he made great use of the perks of the job in bedding starlets, notably Gloria Swanson. Kennedy left Hollywood to return to finance, moving among several palatial homes in Florida, New York and Massachusetts and building a massive fortune thanks to what Nasaw calls "an almost uncanny knack for being in the right stock." His children, including future politicians John, Robert and Edward, grew up surrounded by opulence, though the patriarch took care that they not become spoiled by too much too soon. Yet, by Nasaw's account, when the Depression hit and reduced his fortune along with everyone else's, Kennedy's mood seemed to turn, and he spent the rest of his long life in brooding and contrarian turns, courting plenty of trouble along the way. Accused, as Nasaw notes, of various crimes and moral failings, ranging from bootlegging to anti-Semitism, Kennedy nevertheless instilled in his family a sense of dedication to service and of the necessity of hard work. As he writes, Jack Kennedy recognized that despite the advantages of wealth, he had obstacles to overcome that were at least due in part to his father: "If I were governor of a large state, Protestant and 55," he said, "I could sit back and let it come to me." It did not, and nothing came easy to any of the Kennedys, that tragic clan, who continue to fascinate. Exhaustive yet accessible, Nasaw's book illuminates.Publisher's Weekly has this:
The father of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy (plus six others) was not a bootlegger, nor does any evidence link him to the Mafia, writes Nasaw, refuting two longstanding rumors. But Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969) was possibly the worst U.S. ambassador to Great Britain ever, so committed to appeasing Hitler that FDR cut him out of the diplomatic loop. Kennedy won the post because he was one of the few businessmen to support the New Deal, creator of pioneering financial regulations as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He knew all about manipulating stocks, having parlayed the modest affluence of his father, an East Boston ward heeler, into a fortune in the market. Kennedy was a wonderful father himself, although he and his wife, Rose, led almost completely separate lives. Nasaw (Andrew Carnegie), a history professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, does a fine job of capturing Kennedy’s fiery personality and his eventful, ultimately tragic life, watching Jack rise to the presidency, suffering a stroke but living long enough to see two of his sons assassinated. But the book is much too long and oddly focused; Kennedy’s three-year ambassadorship occupies more than 25% of the text. The reams of fascinating material would have been better served by more careful shaping.Christopher Buckley's review in the NYTimes book review is worth reading, as is "A Conversation with David Nasaw about The Patriarch, History, and Biography". And probably many more of the reviews out there. But I'm not going to get to them tonight
|And Stephen's got Jake Tapper, generally something other than a favorite journalist/news personality of mine, with his book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. Here's Kirkus (via B&N):
An ABC News senior White House correspondent chronicles the short life of a doomed American Army outpost. Combat Outpost Keating, located in northeast Afghanistan, was built in 2006 and hastily evacuated in October 2009; American bombers immediately pounded it to rubble. Intended to serve as a base for the promotion of infrastructure-development projects and the interdiction of insurgents from Pakistan, Keating was near the border but far from American air support. It was clear from the outset that the outpost was poorly located--surrounded by three mountains, on the edge of a road that proved too fragile to support Humvee traffic. Tapper (Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency, 2001, etc.) introduces the men of the three successive American cavalry squadrons who served there, gradually revealing their backgrounds, problems and aspirations, and wives and girlfriends, then describing in detail what insurgent bullets did to their flesh and bone. This is a story of men who were ordered to occupy a remote corner of Afghanistan and unquestioningly did so to the best of their abilities--or some, at the cost of their lives. It also reflects the entire Afghan war in microcosm: too few men holding hostile territory with insufficient support, for goals no one can clearly articulate. This is a narrative, not a polemic, and Tapper patiently lays out the history of what happened at Keating in a gripping, forceful style, describing the daily life of soldiers and the experience of combat. In the process, there also emerges the folly of committing military forces to a poorly defined task in a location that could not be adequately defended or logistically supported. Whatever may have been the merits of the original intervention in Afghanistan, this unadorned, powerful account challenges the purposes and wisdom of America's ongoing military presence there. A timely indictment of a thoughtless waste of young American lives.
And from Library Journal, also via B&N:
After Combat Outpost Keating was abandoned, the Pentagon determined that the camp, in Afghanistan's desolate mountains just 14 miles from the Pakistan border, should never have been established. But first came the October 3, 2009, attack by nearly 400 Taliban fighters, which the 53 U.S. troops held off at considerable cost. A senior White House correspondent for ABC News, Tapper did hard investigative work here; lots of buzz about him as a rising media star.There's plenty more out there, but it seems that right-wing blogistan is really into him. Hate him, loves him, is crushing on him, whichever. It's hard to know the difference from google-blurb headlines, and I'm not going any further into that morass.
(listings and occasional links via The Late Night TV Page, some links & more guest info available at thedailyshow.com/guests, colbertnewshub.com, and a judiciously-used google.com. And sometimes even maybe DuckDuckGo.
(Note: Whenever reading reviews from the NYTimes (particularly Janet Maslin), remember this.)