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3.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle, not life story, 31 Jan 2006
By A Customer
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This review is from: My Life: The Presidential Years (Vintage) (Mass Market Paperback)
I came to this book with high hopes, expecting a real insider's view on the presidency, its workings and the thoughts and feelings of those involved, starting from Clinton himself. This book however does not live up to the task.
You can't expect an autobiography to deal with every major theme from a person's life. Rather authors tend to pick out a range of illustrative events which show the development of their feelings, ambitions and successes. The interesting thing in an autobiography is to see how the person reacts in specific situations, but to do this you need a good store of background detail and context.
Clinton's book however is at least 90% a straight succession of factual descriptions. Here's an example, chosen (honestly) at random (page 424): "The month ended on two high notes. I had a reception for members of Congress who had voted for the 1993 budget, including those who had lost their seats for doing so, to announce that the deficit had been completely eliminated for the first time since 1969". And that's it, nothing more about that episode, the reacions of those present, how he felt about them, whether he would have expected being this far in 1993, whether he felt proud of what he had done. This type of information tells you absolutely nothing about the man, his hopes, his fears, his weaknesses. Every person on this planet is unique, and I read a biography to see why a person is unique in their own special way, and how that has helped them to measure up to circumstances in a different way than I would.
Am sorry to say this, but at some points the style seems so wooden that, shock-horror, it seems ghost written with the odd bit of spice thrown in by Clinton. In any case it is certain that he wrote this book with his presidential diary open next to him as the detail on dates, people and places is too formidable to come from memory only.
In that 10% of personal accounts which does shine through however you get a real glimpse of the man. Given the importance of his role in public life, I found it worth it wading through 600+ pages of largely bare, emotionless facts, though I wouldn't make such an effort for many other autobiographies.
I don't regret buying this book, but I doubt I would bother with volume 1.
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My Life: The Presidential Years (Vintage)
My Life: The Presidential Years (Vintage) by Bill, Etc Clinton (Mass Market Paperback - 30 Jun 2005)
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