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My Life Hardcover – 21 Jun 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (21 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091795273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091795276
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 244,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

An exhaustive, soul-searching memoir, Bill Clinton's My Life is a refreshingly candid look at the former president as a son, brother, teacher, father, husband and public figure. Clinton painstakingly outlines the history behind his greatest successes and failures, including his dedication to educational and economic reform, his war against a "vast right-wing operation" determined to destroy him, and the "morally indefensible" acts for which he was nearly impeached. My Life is autobiography as therapy--a personal history written by a man trying to face and banish his private demons.

Clinton approaches the story of his youth with gusto, sharing tales of giant watermelons, nine-pound tumours, a charging ram, famous mobsters and jazz musicians and a BB gun standoff. He offers an equally energetic portrait of American history, pop culture and the evolving political landscape, covering the historical events that shaped his early years (namely the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr and JFK) and the events that shaped his presidency (Waco, Bosnia, Somalia). What makes My Life remarkable as a political memoir is how thoroughly it is infused with Clinton's unassuming, charmingly pithy voice:

I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain.

However, that same voice might tire readers as Clinton applies his penchant for minute details to a distractible laundry list of events, from his youth through the years of his presidency. Not wanting to forget a single detail that might help account for his actions, Clinton overdoes it--do we really need to know the name of his childhood barber? But when Clinton sticks to the meat of his story--recollections about his mother, his abusive stepfather, Hillary, the campaign trail and Kenneth Starr--the veracity of emotion and revelations about "what it is like to be President" make My Life impossible to put down.

To Clinton, "politics is a contact sport" and while he claims that My Life is not intended to make excuses or assign blame, it does portray him as a fighter whose strategy is to "take the first hit, then counterpunch as hard as I could". While My Life is primarily a stroll through Clinton's memories, it is also a scathing rebuke--a retaliation against his detractors, including Kenneth Starr, whose "mindless search for scandal" protected the guilty while "persecuting the innocent" and distracted his administration from pressing international matters (including strikes on al Qaeda). Counterpunch indeed.

At its core, My Life is a charming and intriguing if flawed book by an intriguing and flawed man who had his worst failures and humiliations made public. Ultimately, the man who left office in the shadow of scandal offers an honest and open account of his life, allowing readers to witness his struggle to "drain the most out of every moment" while maintaining the character with which he was raised. It is a remarkably intimate, persuasive look at the boy he was, the president he became and the man he is today. --Daphne Durham, Amazon.com

Review

"Bill Clinton has given an unprecedented story of a White House life and the roads that led to it" (Peter Stothard The Times)

"You can't help but feel you're in the company, one on one, of the man himself... The narrative is engaging... The accounts of high-wire diplomacy... are all riveting" (Jonathan Freedland Guardian)

"His book tells, in an extraordinary way, a truly heartening story of American democracy" (Peter Jay Evening Standard) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 26 Jun. 2004
Format: Hardcover
I must confess I am a fan of political autobiographies. The first one I ever read was the Nixon autobiography; I've since read the various presidential and prime ministerial works past and present. Against these various tomes, Bill Clinton's memoirs, 'My Life', stacks up well. There is nothing earth-shattering and revealing here; there are some different nuances and a little more candour involved, but not a lot. After all, Clinton is still a relatively young man, and could have other political aspirations (he wouldn't be the first president to also serve in the Congress after the presidency), and of course, his wife has an active political life of her own, which I am certain was a major consideration in the tone and content of this volume.
I was fortunate to get advance reading material of this before the day of release, and got the local bookseller to permit me a purchase after midnight last night. Of course, like many people, I turned first to the part about Monica Lewinsky, who, for better or worse, will be a defining image of Clinton's presidency for the foreseeable future - history will likely be kinder to Clinton (as it ended up being for Nixon, and others who have stumbled in office), but for the present, this image holds true. There is a typical Clinton-esque mixture of self-reproach and blaming of others. Clinton's greatest ire is saved for Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, who Clinton characterises as being the tip of the spear of a vast right-wing conspiracy including conservative white southerners who never worked for civil rights.
He discusses the icy situation with his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea after the revelations, and how he slept on the sofa in different rooms for a significant period after the revelations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darren Waterworth on 17 Aug. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jed Bartlet, the fictional US President in TV's The West Wing, is a political hero of mine, so it's perhaps not surprising that I find myself instinctively warming to Bill Clinton. The Bartlet character is, in part, a reflection of Clinton - a deeply religious, hard working, liberal internationalist, driven by the desire to serve community and country. A self-styled 'New Democrat', Clinton first came to national prominence as Governor of Arkansas in the 1980s. Architect of the once-fashionable 'Third Way', Clinton modernised the progressive message by co-opting core ideas from the conservative agenda (fiscal hawkishness, family values, work not welfare) and infusing them with a strong belief in social justice and opportunity for all. Along the way, he revitalised a factious Democratic Party, forced the Republicans to the wilderness of the radical right and blazed a trail for his soulmate Tony Blair to follow in Britain after 1994.
I approached this autobiography with some trepidation - as well as a dictionary of American idioms and an atlas. Though a keen student of politics, I am a novice with regard to American government; its systems, structures and procedures seem arcane and baffling. Another potential obstacle for the British reader is the vernacular of American politics, a problem compounded by the folksy, conversational style of Clinton's writing. Hence, I'm still not au fait with the politics of campaign finance reform, 'soft money' and the rest and Clinton's confession that, during preparations for the 1996 Presidential TV debates, George Mitchell "cleaned my clock" just mystified me!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally read autobiographies of politicians, but read this and really got into it. Yes, it is long - but don't be put off by other people's comments re: it's length - just settle down and enjoy what is an interesting read.
Had inspired me to pick up other political autobiographies.
Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. T. Rogers on 30 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I can't help but begin this review with that famous Clinton solipsism: the definition of 'is'. We don't really find out in the end what is 'is', or rather what 'is' was, but what we do know is that Clinton was having an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern. Actually, when I picked-up this book, the whole sex scandal and subsequent impeachment were the last thing on my mind. I wanted to gain some insight into Clinton's background and his climb in politics. I think this autobiography does an excellent job in that respect. I have read a good few political biographies and memoirs now, and judging comparatively, I would say 'My Life' deserves to be seen as one of the greats. Clinton tells us his story, movingly and comprehensively, though his prose lacks the trenchant qualities of a truly great political figure. Clinton was a driven and talented person from a young age, and he used that talent to better himself and along the way better the lives of others, but he was not a paradigmic or transformative political figure along the lines of FDR (liberal) or Reagan (conservative).

Inevitably, we must turn to the Lewinsky scandal. It's covered here and Clinton - to his credit - does not seek to absolve himself in any way. There are no lacquered platitudes either. In fact, in the relevant passages on, respectively, Whitewater, Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr and the impeachment and Senate trial, Clinton coldly and painfully identifies his mistakes and weaknesses and he is honest in that respect, though he also cannot help falling into apotropaic and conspiratorial attacks on his critics. In the end my view is that he should have taken hemlock: that would have created a legacy infinitely more consequential than the transient popularity he obsessively courted.
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