But the aphorism is deceptive. To have a book inside is by no means to have a good book, inside your head or on the page. Many of those penning books prove what we always suspected… that books are too important to be left to quotidian authors and their often glaring limitations.
Books can make, books can break reputations.
One special literary genre is the subsection of political authors; either the ones who write their own books themselves, or the (now frequent) example of those with a thin offering of insights and observations; these need the felicitous (and practiced) ghost writer to spin the little they offer into The Book that will entice (if not ultimately satisfy) the public
Now two such political authors of high office have written (or assisted in the writing of) their autobiographies.
It is my privilege to provide the exegesis.
Governor Deval Patrick, “A Reason To Believe. Lessons from an Improbable Life”, Broadway Books, Division of Random House.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, “Against All Odds. My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances.” Simon and Schuster.
First, His Excellency the Governor…
We live in a society so desperate for “content” that those in the business of providing it in books, videos, films, etc. are literally forced to grab virtually anything that offers even the most slender promise — and any chance of profit at all. In other words, we have far exceeded with our technologies and communications mega-systems, the means of disseminating content, the ability to provide even a tiny fraction of desirable content.
Hence Governor Patrick’s ill-judged effort.
Here there was trouble even before a single word had been written. You see, this then one-term little known Massachusetts politician was offered the astonishing advance of $1.35 million after a auction for the rights that pitted 9 publishers against each other, thereby proving that they, too, suffer from the dangerous syndrome of hope over experience.
Patrick, a Harvard-trained lawyer who writes like one, with diligence but no felicity, made it clear from the get-go that he intended to write a motivational, educational, instructional tome, not a kiss ‘n’ tell. Every warning bell at respected Simon and Schuster should have sounded. But publishers are pack animals. If one has a book by a poor black boy who made good (can one say Obama?) then every other self-respecting “major” publisher must have one too. Those who look for sense and sensibility in the publishing game are bound to be disappointed. You’ve got ‘peat… then endless repeat.
So, in a nutshell Patrick’s book is about a boy from the projects who went to the most privileged of prep schools (Milton Academy) to the even grander privilege of Harvard… only to suffer a few bruises and rebuffs along the way. Is this a book? As Gertrude Stein (who went to Radcliffe herself) might have said, “There is no there there.”
The book disappoints in anecdotes like this:
In 2008 knock ’em down diva Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention. Hearing it moved Patrick to sobs. When he pulled himself together, he bumped into Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker. He was also overwhelmed by Hudson’s delivery… and the two of them cried again, together.
And this is the high point of Patrick’s underwhelming book.
One more anecdote proves the point.
The news coverage on the release of this book unfailingly mentions the “big bombshell” found in its pages; namely the fact that the newly-elected Governor of Massachusetts almost resigned because his wife was near a nervous break down because of the unanticipated pressures attaching to her position as First Lady of the Commonwealth. Well might this disclosure be cited, but not in the way he anticipates. Massachusetts in recent years has had many “first ladies” who opt out of the (non elected) role completely. And Mrs. Deval might have done the same. Thus, more drivel this; a most telling story providing more proof that then the man was not ready for prime time.
Senator Brown’s book is entirely different, a winning effort because Brown continues to reveal the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, engaging us with a picaresque tale right out of “Tom Jones.” (Henry Fielding, 1749) In the best traditions of this riveting genre, there is hardly an engrossing, shocking, salacious detail that our tell-all, show-all senator neglects. He is nothing if not thorough.
Brown provides the details, and I mean all the details, about his molestations at summer camp… how he was accosted by men in public places (and what happened then)… and, shockingly, about the endless, mind numbing beatings suffered at the hands of his mother’s serial, unsuitable partners. This indeed is a tale for our psychotic times, and we all love, admit it, each tawdry, jaw-dropping detail.
The senator doesn’t stint. He tells about his nude centerfold experience at Cosmopolitan magazine, the beautiful women, charmed to pet and enjoy, the parties at Studio 54; (he was surrounded by drugs but like Bill Clinton never indulged, scout’s honor).
How did this upward trajectory start and develop for the boy whose previous achievements were limited to ever more inventive shop listing? This lad’s face (and the body he decided to craft) was his fortune… and he ran with it, right up to and perhaps even beyond the Senate of these United States.
Brown has a tale to tell, indeed, and its substance would have emerged whoever had written it. But here, as in so many things, our Junior Senator from Massachusetts, was lucky. He bagged as his ghost Lyric Winik who “helped” former First Lady Laura Bush with her memoirs. Make no mistake, Winik is the best of the best… and he has delivered for Brown, perhaps (if he wins re-election in 2012 in his fervid Democrat state) unto the White House itself. Really, the Smithsonian should request of the senator now his famous pink hot pants for their permanent collection.
There is more, much more, but it is a charity to Senator Brown and the blissful retailers carrying this book to forego the joys of telling you. Get the book. It has undoubtedly raised the bar for political autobiographies. And a good thing, too, else we’d be left with the high minded, low octane effusions of politicians like Deval Patrick, who should stick with his day job. As for Scott Brown, he will always have options, and our attention.
About the Author
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a historian and author of 18 best-selling business books. Republished with author’s permission by Tania Vick http://HomeBizInfluence.com.