- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
My Life Hardcover – 30 Jun 2004
|New from||Used from|
|Hardcover, 30 Jun 2004||
Special offers and product promotions
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
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 --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Audio Cassette.
"By a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography-no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States.... And he can write." --Larry McMurtry, The New York Times Book Review "My Life is, without question, the best written U.S. presidential tome of all time." --Douglas Brinkley, Financial Times "A hell of a good story." --Frank McCourt, Entertainment Weekly"It's an almost voluptuous pleasure to read Clinton when he's recounting and analyzing a political race or a legislative battle, whether it's one of his own or somebody else's." --The New Yorker "Consistently fascinating." --The Seattle Times"Clinton talks with disarming frankness [and] writes with grace and fluidity. . . . He is also a born storyteller." --The New Republic"Might just be the perfect representation of the man himself." --The Plain Dealer "Clinton has many tales to tell, particularly a rich, sometimes moving account of his years before the public life, fit for future analytical historians and biographers. . . . The personal and the political are intertwined. . . . Clinton's story very much reflects the man we know." --The Nation "He manages to create the distinct impression that he is sitting in the living room talking to the reader. . . . Anyone who is geninely interested in American politics will find his insights and anecdotes fascinating. . . . The book helps to elucidate the question of 'how he did it.' " --Deseret Morning News"It's a saga worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, a rags-to-riches tale full of the stuff of human frailty, with a cast of hundreds, complete with low-life villians and high-minded heroes and, as such stories require, an upbeat ending. . . . The 1990s come to life once again as a time of uncommon tumult and riveting personalities. . . . The personalities on parade are as vivid as the events." --Newark Star-Ledger" Tremendously interesting and entertaining. . . . Clinton's is a truly American story to which the average person can relate. . . . Future politicians will find it a must-read, and average Americans will identify with the highs and lows we all experience as we make our way through life." --Chattanooga Times Free Press "Takes readers through a strong account of the achievements and failures of his administrattion. . . . No other presidential memoir is likely to be so lively. . . . Bill Clinton is hard to dismiss, and so is an account of his extraordinary life." -- The Tennessean"A reading of MyLife is a necessity for lovers of good autobiograpy. It reads like a down-home history of a life and, thus, anchors Clinton as a superb storyteller. . . . Candid. . . . Honest. . . . Stimulating." --Huntsville Times
-By a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography-no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States.... And he can write.- --Larry McMurtry, The New York Times Book Review -My Life is, without question, the best written U.S. presidential tome of all time.- --Douglas Brinkley, Financial Times -A hell of a good story.- --Frank McCourt, Entertainment Weekly-It's an almost voluptuous pleasure to read Clinton when he's recounting and analyzing a political race or a legislative battle, whether it's one of his own or somebody else's.- --The New Yorker -Consistently fascinating.- --The Seattle Times-Clinton talks with disarming frankness [and] writes with grace and fluidity. . . . He is also a born storyteller.- --The New Republic-Might just be the perfect representation of the man himself.- --The Plain Dealer -Clinton has many tales to tell, particularly a rich, sometimes moving account of his years before the public life, fit for future analytical historians and biographers. . . . The personal and the political are intertwined. . . . Clinton's story very much reflects the man we know.- --The Nation -He manages to create the distinct impression that he is sitting in the living room talking to the reader. . . . Anyone who is geninely interested in American politics will find his insights and anecdotes fascinating. . . . The book helps to elucidate the question of 'how he did it.' - --Deseret Morning News-It's a saga worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, a rags-to-riches tale full of the stuff of human frailty, with a cast of hundreds, complete with low-life villians and high-minded heroes and, as such stories require, an upbeat ending. . . . The 1990s come to life once again as a time of uncommon tumult and riveting personalities. . . . The personalities on parade are as vivid as the events.- --Newark Star-Ledger- Tremendously interesting and entertaining. . . . Clinton's is a truly American story to which the average person can relate. . . . Future politicians will find it a must-read, and average Americans will identify with the highs and lows we all experience as we make our way through life.- --Chattanooga Times Free Press -Takes readers through a strong account of the achievements and failures of his administrattion. . . . No other presidential memoir is likely to be so lively. . . . Bill Clinton is hard to dismiss, and so is an account of his extraordinary life.- -- The Tennessean-A reading of MyLife is a necessity for lovers of good autobiograpy. It reads like a down-home history of a life and, thus, anchors Clinton as a superb storyteller. . . . Candid. . . . Honest. . . . Stimulating.- --Huntsville Times
Top customer reviews
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. By not doing so, by clinging to office despite these personal indiscretions, Clinton set a bad example and arguably reflected, even contributed to, the moral degeneration in society. Clinton never really addresses this problem directly, namely how he can expect to call himself a leader and a man of example when he cannot even take proper responsibility for his own actions. Nevertheless, I cannot help also feeling sympathy for him, given the identified faults were more of the personal and private kind. Only the most hard-hearted person would want to condemn a public figure too vigorously in such circumstances, though as President he should have realised that his private affairs were - temporarily at least - also public and if he was not morally fit for the office, he should not have assumed the office.
One further impression I gained from this book about (or, rather, that this book confirmed about) Clinton is this kind of vagueness that he has. It's difficult to pin down, but there is a similarity here with Blair. On the one hand he is a thoughtful and intelligent man, but on the other hand he doesn't really give the impression of someone who has any kind of anchoring narrative about him. Whereas Blair was morally certain but politically vague (adopting a missionary zeal in office that cost many their lives), I think Clinton was morally hazy but did at least attempt to develop a consistent and coherent political philosophy for the Democratic Party that moved it away somewhat from New Dealism but which retained the Party's progressive instincts. One of the many greatly useful things about this book is the way that Clinton explains much of his thinking within the context of that kind of middle-class-friendly political philosophy, and by extension, the way he critiques Reagan-Bush economic policy. He purports to do so with rigour and certainty, but for me it's too much of a reminder of the Continental-style, CSD-type of social-democratic thinking that began on the British Left during the late 1970s in response to Bolshevism and the New Right, only with a distinctly American character (i.e. 'progressive' rather than 'social democratic'). Really, deep-down Clinton doesn't know what he thinks, but he'll think it anyway as long as it'll gain votes.
I like the format of the book. Refreshingly, Clinton eschews the modern trend towards thematic writing and just tells us his story chronologically. It's well-written, entertaining and meaningful, with very varied judgements about the characters met along the way. Predictably, it's also a very self-absorbed prose in which Clinton is at the centre of events. This ego-centric outlook reaches its zenith in the latter chapters in which Clinton tells us his story as President and becomes an increasingly sad figure, obsessed with his own political legacy. Apropos, perhaps it would have been better for America if they had elected as president someone less self-absorbed than Clinton while sharing some of his generous political instincts. Clinton had many of the qualities that would make a fine president - he had an overarching vision, he evinced optimism and he had inside him a genuinely good heart and a generous spirit - but he lacked the courage of his own convictions; was if anything too keen to gain office; was too much a creature of transient public sentiment rather than being a leader of public opinion; was too preoccupied with the feelings and whims of 'soccer moms' in focus groups; too much in awe of rich men; too ready to engage in moral grandstanding rather than adopt firm, permanent principles; too easily led by politically-correct thinking on racial issues; and - above all else - too reliant on professional political strategists and their eccentric trajections, when he should have decided what he really stood for, stood for it and stood by it.
In the end, I think Clinton was a very important president, but only because of what he presided-over, not because he did anything of significance: he was essentially a marionette who achieved nothing of note in his own right. Of course you could argue that a wise president will, under certain circumstances, choose to do essentially nothing and just preside, but Clinton set out to be an activist president and so in that respect he failed abjectly. I think history will most likely remember him as one of those hazy but charismatic managerial figures that electoral politics pivots into office from time-to-time and who is sensitive to the Zeitgeist. His various deeds and doings, such that they were, amounted to mere epiphenomena, the result of and a reflection of wider social, cultural and financial movements in American society. If anything, an apt analogy for the Clinton presidency would be the 'Cohabitation' period of the French presidency of François Mitterrand (during 1986 to 1988). This book shows that even at the height of the impeachment controversy, Clinton was unquestionably adept in the art of ministerial 'cohabitation', somehow keeping the peace and maintaining a bipartisan relationship with Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress. This feat required not just considerable skill but also a nuanced understanding of the constitutional locus of the presidency. So, Clinton was no dilettante and to be fair he was much more than just a vacillator or the compromising figure of the 'triangulation' strategy. He was a man of substance and ideals and in a sense his lack of any substantive legacy is deeply tragic and contradictory. He had it in him to be great. This is a man who could have been better, could have been stronger, could have stood for more, if only, at the relevant time, he had found the will and the courage and overcome his personal demons. I think this book is really the story of that sad, bitter failure. It's essential reading if you are interested in politics and government.
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. He also writes of his own self-examination and self-therapy (how does one do therapy with a president? Actually, there is some insight here, with his marriage counseling going on for a year after the incident). From visits with preachers (Clinton was never a traditionally religious man) to his own readings of self-help books and spiritual classics (one such, 'Imitation of Christ', by Thomas a Kempis, is a superb and well-known text, but not one I would have ever guessed useful for a president in this situation).
He gives some insights into the campaign trails, his early Arkansas experiences prior to national politics, and the two presidential elections, the first against the elder Bush, and the second against Bob Dole. He also takes good account of his childhood - the stories of his mother and various male figures in his early life are quite interesting, and beyond what was public during his presidential days. Even the derivation of his name - William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, has a story behind it worth reading.
One of the key points of interest of any political autobiography is the commentary and speculation the author makes on present and future situations, and Clinton's is no exception. He mentions his own assessment of the danger Iraq posed (he would have rated it no higher than number six on his list of priorities), and claims to have been more forceful in warning the incoming Bush administration about the dangers of Osama Bin Ladin. He also gives interesting perspectives on allies and other foreign leaders (John Major and Tony Blair, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Yasir Arafat, Ehud Barak, etc.).
In all, Clinton takes some of the blame for the troubles of his presidency, but shifts quite a bit of it to others, too. He also takes credit where credit is due for some of the successes in his presidency, but on the whole, as is typically true in such writings, casts the best of possible lights on most of his actions and the outcomes. Being an extrovert with a penchant for introspection, it is a wonder that this book could be contained in a mere 1000 or so pages.
Love him or hate him (and it is amazing how few people have neutral feelings about him, as he experienced and wrote about in his book), Clinton is a figure politicians must deal with for some time to come, and historians will likely rarely tire of debating and analysing.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
and it will be interesting if she manage to become president don't think she would let...Read more
Look for similar items by category