Former vice-presidential nominee and Alaskan governor Sarah Palin says she will publish a book on fitness and eating well.
“Our family is writing a book on fitness and self-discipline focusing on where we get our energy and balance as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods,” Palin told People Magazine.
She did not mention whether the book had found a publisher or when the book will be released.
“We promise you what we do works and allows a fulfilling quality of life and sustenance anyone can enjoy,” Palin said, calling the future release “our unique and motivating book.”
Palin is the author of "Going Rogue: An American Life," which was released in 2009, and "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag," which came out in 2010.
The classic sci-fi novel “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle has been adapted into a graphic novel by Hope Larson.
The novel, which was released earlier this month and completed with permission from L’Engle’s estate, tells the story of Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin as they all search for Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, who went missing after participating in a government project. The story is told in black, white, and light blue panels drawn by Larson, who also adapted the story.
The writer and illustrator, who was also behind the art and text of the graphic novel "Mercury," told The Los Angeles Times that “A Wrinkle in Time” was one of her favorite books growing up.
“It was definitely an important book for me,” Larson said. “It’s one of those books that I’ve gone back to again and again throughout my life.”
Larson said she believes the story is still fresh today despite being first published in 1962.
“I wasn’t really even aware that it was a story that was published in the ’60s,” she said of reading it when she was younger. “It has this freshness to it. And all the science and everything, it just doesn’t feel like it has aged all that much. It feels that way more now, because we all have cell phones and we all have computers, but in the ’80s and probably the ’90s, you wouldn’t sit down and think, 'Oh this takes place like 50 years ago.' ”
The writer said that she based the illustrations for the first scene, in which heroine Meg is frightened by a thunderstorm in her room, on pictures of L’Engle’s house, which was reportedly the basis for the Murrys’ home.
She hopes the graphic novel will also attract younger readers, said Larson.
“My hope is that kids who are intimidated by the novel may try the graphic novel,” she said. “And if they can get through the graphic novel, they’ll basically have read the novel already because almost all of the text is in there.”
She said the most challenging part of the book for her to illustrate was a scene in which Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin look at “darkness” in space, which is described to them as an evil force that is attacking the universe.
“Larson obviously has great affection for the tale of time and space travel, outsiders, and fascism, and she has created a tender graphic novel from it,” writer Lauren Davis said in a review for the website io9, though she noted that the fast pace of the graphic novel meant readers were better served if they’d already read the original book.
Chinese author Mo Yan became the first Chinese citizen in the Swedish Academy’s 111-year history to win the Nobel Prize in literature when he was awarded the prestigious prize Thursday. (Gao Xingjian, who won the prize in 2000, was born in China but was a French national when he won the award.)
“Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition,” the award’s citation declared, describing him as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary.
Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye (“Mo Yan” is a pen name meaning “don’t speak”), told Nobel organizers he was “overjoyed and scared” when he was told he had won the coveted award.
Once called “one of the most famous, oft-banned, and widely pirated of all Chinese writers,” Mo Yan is known for his depiction of rural Chinese life, particularly its women, which populate many of his novels, short stories, and essays. His novel “Red Sorghum,” about the life of a young woman working in a distillery, was made into a film directed by Zhang Yimou, which became one of the most internationally acclaimed Chinese films.
Other well-known works include “Frog,” “Big Breasts and Wide Hips,” and “Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.” Mo Yan’s most recent novel, “Wa,” is the story about the consequences of China’s one-child policy.
Mo Yan’s unusual biography informs his work: He was born in 1955 in Gaomi, China, the son of farmers who left school at 12 during the Cultural Revolution to work, first in agriculture, then in a factory, according to his Nobel biography. He joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1976, where he began to study literature and write. Hi first short story was published in 1981, in a literary journal.
“In his writing Mo Yan draws on his youthful experiences and on settings in the province of his birth,” the Nobel biography stated.
“He writes about the peasantry, about life in the countryside, about people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing,” Peter Englund, head of the Swedish Academy told the press. “The basis for his books was laid when as a child he listened to folktales. The description magical realism has been used about him, but I think that is belittling him – this isn't something he's picked up from Gabriel García Márquez, but something which is very much his own. With the supernatural going in to the ordinary, he's an extremely original narrator.”
Along with Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, Mo Yan was one of several writers “tipped by bookmakers to break what critics had seen as a preponderance of European winners over the past decade,” writes the New York Times.
He is the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Gao Xingjian, who won in 2000, is now a French citizen, and Pearl Buck, who won in 1938 is an American author.)
The prize is worth 8 million Swedish kronor, about $1.2 million.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
More than 700 people came to the event, which lasted three days at a Marriott hotel. One session included a lecture on how women would have dressed in Austen’s day, an appropriate topic considering many of the conference participants were dressed in Regency gowns and hats.
One attendee, Goucher College associate professor Juliette Wells, said the first time she came to the meeting she was taken aback by the level of fandom exhibited by the JASNA members.
“When I first came, as a graduate student, I was kind of freaked out by the level of ardor,” said Wells, who wrote a study of Austen in pop culture titled “Everybody’s Jane,” in an interview with The New York Times. “I wasn’t sure if I would come back.” But JASNA, she said, “has been very good to me.”
West Virginia University professor Marilyn Francus, who spoke about finances in Austen’s works, said she is always impressed by the level of knowledge exhibited by Austen fans. When she brought up the question of how everyone in the neighborhood knows protagonist Fitzwilliam Darcy’s income in "Pride and Prejudice," one person in the audience informed her that inheritance information sometimes ran in newspapers at that time, while another volunteered the information that men of that era would occasionally record their income so they could get credit.
“I learn so much from these people,” Francus told The New York Times. “I would never dare condescend to a JASNA audience.”
The 1970s-era thriller begins with a description of a man admiring a mountain range from an airplane.
"Far off in the west, the Sierra Nevadas made the horizon a jagged blue-gray pencil line," the author writes in the book's first paragraph. "It reminded Galardi of a sales graph, with Mount Whitney being a very good week."
Who on earth would link natural beauty to something you'd see on a screen in a conference room?
Spiro Agnew, that's who, the man who guaranteed that neither Joe Biden or Paul Ryan will ever become the first vice president to pen a Robert Ludlum-style bestseller. Agnew was there first with 1976's "The Canfield Decision." You remember, "the most controversial bestselling novel of the year."
OK, you probably don't remember the book. And if you're not of a certain age, you may be unfamiliar with Agnew himself. Here's a refresher: He was a disgraced ex-vice president described on the back of the $1.95 paperback edition of the book as "the most outspoken and controversial of the President's men." (The president was one Richard Milhous Nixon.)
I learned about the book while lost in a Wikipedia wormhole, endlessly clicking from one intriguing entry to another. Somehow I landed on the "American politicians convicted of crimes" page, which led me to the article on the late Agnew's life and a mention of "The Canfield Decision."
A few clicks later, a 36-year-old paperback was on its way to my door. It has that delicious musty smell of an old book, several positive and positive-ish blurbs ("Fascinating and exciting" – Merv Griffin; "Interesting" – Harper's), and evidence of a torn-out insert advertisement. No surprise: it was published back in the days when paperbacks came with ads for tobacco companies and didn't cost $16.95.
So how is "The Canfield Decision"? Let's say it's a page-turner because you'll turn the pages in search of something worth reading.
Just look at the first few pages, which is as far as I could get. Join me on this voyage through the mind of an ex-veep:
• The second paragraph in the book – yes, the second one – includes a lengthy description of the 727-E aircraft: "And now the engine modifications and increased fuel capacity of the E model gave it enough range for intercontinental missions. He was glad they hadn't gone supersonic."
This will really grab the one percent of readers who are engineers.
• Who's on the plane? An "affable, hard-working steward." A fortysomething Secret Service special agent with the muscle tone of a younger man. And "newsies" – reporters – most of whom have lost a commitment to objectivity. One, in fact, is a "fourteen-carat pain."
There's no sign, however, of the Agnew-ian "nattering nabobs of negativism."
• A news magazine called "Twiceweek" appears on the plane.
You might have seen it on the newsstands next to "Timely."
• There is, of course a pretty lady on the plane. She's a secretary named Kathy who's "sexy, but more heavenly sexy than earthy sexy."
Say no more. Oh wait. What?
• "I'm tired of falling for the same old baloney just because it's wrapped up to look like porterhouse," says a reporter. Later, he's described as despising his colleagues in TV and radio: "They learned nothing from day to day. They just flitted from flower to flower, intoning resonant banalities."
At least they're not discordant banalities. They're the worst kind.
• The vice president is a man named Porter Newton Canfield, known to his friends as "Newt."
A politician who goes by Newt? Oh come on. That's ridiculous!
Agnew really did have quite the imagination.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
In a departure from years past, this year’s finalists includes some of the country’s most prominent and popular writers, authors, novelists, and poets who have gained literary respect as well as commercial success.
Dominican-born writer Junot Diaz, still spinning from being awarded a “genius” grant by the MacArthur Foundation last week, is nominated for his collection of short stories, “This is How You Lose Her.” (Diaz also won a Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”)
The list also includes the late New York Times journalist and foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid for his memoir, “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East.” Shadid died earlier this year on a reporting assignment for the Times in Syria.
Other non-fiction nominees include “The Passage of Power,” Robert Caro’s fourth book on Lyndon Johnson; “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” Katherine Boo’s account of life in a Mumbai slum; “The Boy Kings of Texas,” by Domingo Martinez; and “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe,” Anne Applebaum’s history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe.
A few themes we’re seeing this year: By and large, the finalists are more well-known and more widely read than in years past when nominations went to relatively obscure works that sold few copies, a source of criticism.
In the fiction category, the works tend to address struggles faced in modern American life such as financial struggle, foreclosure, and rising college tuition in “A Hologram for the King,” and post-traumatic stress disorder and other fallout from the Iraq war, as in debut novels “The Yellow Birds” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
Finalists in poetry include “Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations,” by David Ferry; “Heavenly Bodies,” by Cynthia Huntington; “Fast Animal,” by Tim Seibles; “Night of the Republic,” by Alan Shapiro; and “Meme,” by Susan Wheeler.
In young people’s literature, finalists include “Goblin Secrets,” by William Alexander; “Out of Reach,” by Carrie Arcos; “Never Fall Down,” by Patricia McCormick; “Endangered,” by Eliot Schrefer; and “Bomb” by Steve Sheinkin.
Winners in each of four categories (Fiction, Non-fiction, Young Adult, and Poetry) will be announced Nov. 14 in New York. Each receives $10,000, and, far more valuable, a serious boost in their literary reputation and book sales.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
As a satirist once observed about an American vice president, it's hard to play second fiddle when you don't even have a bow.
The Constitution just doesn't give vice presidents much to do except wait around for something unfortunate to happen. Not all VPs have minded much: One had enough spare time to run a saloon. Others devoted themselves to pastimes like writing history books, dreaming about getting a law degree, and bashing the guy in the White House.
How'd that happen? For better or worse, who are the most memorable VPs? And how many have shot a man while in office?
For answers, I called author Joel Goldstein, a Saint Louis University law professor who's perhaps the nation's leading expert on vice presidents.
Q: One of Franklin Roosevelt's vice presidents famously declared that the office is "not worth a bucket of warm [bodily fluid]."
Setting aside his penchant for earthy language, was he right?
A: For most of our history, up until recently, Vice President John Nance Garner hit the nail on the head.
But the trajectory of the office has been in a positive direction. Since 1977, the beginning of the Mondale vice presidency, it has really been a serious office. All of the vice presidents from Mondale on have been integral parts of the executive branch, right in the midst of White House decision-making.
Q: In the beginning, vice presidents were runners-up in elections and sometimes didn't actually like the presidents they served with. And then they began to be tapped to balance tickets, right?
A: The 19th-century vice presidents were really ticket-balancers who were chosen by party leaders. Sometimes they had resumes that were totally implausible.
Chester Author was collector of customs at the port of New York, and I don't think anyone viewed him as presidential tinder. His job was to help carry New York.
Not long after the election, President Garfield was shot and lingered for 80 days. Then Arthur became president.
Andrew Johnson was a border state Democrat who was put on the ticket with Lincoln for political reasons. John Tyler had nothing in common with the policies of the Harrison administration, which only lasted for a month.
Q: Yet all of these men landed in the White House after presidents died. When did the political system start taking the vice presidency seriously?
A: The system changed around 1940 when the president became more powerful, the national government looked to do more, and the presidential candidates began to take a role in selecting their running mates. From 1976 on, it became increasingly clear that it was good politics to chose someone who was a plausible successor.
Q: Who are some of your favorite obscure vice presidents?
A: Garret Hobart, an unlikely guy who was McKinley's first vice president, had been a New Jersey state legislator. At that time, vice presidents were very peripheral to the business of government, but Hobart became very friendly with McKinley, and he played something of a role. He was an aberration. There's also Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's vice president, who compared being vice president to a catatonic state: "He cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain; and yet he is perfectly conscious of everything that is going on about him."
He also said "the only business of the vice-president is to ring the White House bell every morning and ask what is the state of health of the president." [Ironically, Marshall would be kept out of the loop when Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke and couldn't function as president.]
Q: I know from watching "24" on TV that the vice president does have an unusual power under the 25th Amendment: he or she can vote with the Cabinet to declare the president to be incapacitated and then take over, at least temporarily. Could this allow the VP to launch a coup?
A: You could imagine a situation when the vice president and Cabinet think the president is pursuing disastrous policies, and they declare him disabled. If there's a contest between the president on one side and the vice president and Cabinet on the other, ultimately the House and Senate have to decide the issue. Movies and novels have picked up on this theme.
Q: Who was the most influential vice president?
A: Walter Mondale.
Before him, vice presidents thought the way to become powerful would be to have the president delegate them turf.
He realized that presidents weren't going to give the vice president significant things to do. Presidents were more likely to give vice presidents menial things that would end up diminishing the vice president and eating up his time.
Mondale said he'd like to be an across-the-board senior adviser to the president, take on missions where the president thought he'd be helpful, and not have any ongoing program to run. That's what he and President Carter agreed to, and it worked well.
He created a model for other vice presidents.
Q: Who stands out among the least effective vice presidents?
A: Nelson Rockefeller, President Ford's vice president, was one of the most powerful people in the country -- governor of New York for four terms and leader of the eastern wing of the Republican Party.But the vice president role didn't fit him because he never figured out how to operate as vice president. In some ways he was obtuse, proposing things that were totally out of step with what President Ford was trying to do. He wasn't a very good follower.
Q: Who else had a troubled time as vice president?
Lyndon Johnson brutalized Hubert Humphrey, and Harry Truman didn't know about the Manhattan Project before Roosevelt died. Nixon hated Spiro Agnew. Chester Arthur wrote a letter to a newspaper questioning President Garfield's integrity, saying he hadn't been square.
And then there was Richard Nixon. At a press conference, President Eisenhower was asked about major ideas he'd heard from Nixon. "If you give me a week, I might think of one," he said. "I don't remember."
Q: Yikes. Well, at least Nixon didn't shoot anyone. Would you remind us who did?
A: Aaron Burr was the only vice president other than Dick Cheney to shoot somebody while in office.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Literature reminds us that there are many kinds of courage and battles are fought not only on the ground but also in the pages of a book. Syrian author and journalist Samar Yazbek has fought Syria’s Assad regime in the pages of her own book, “A Woman in the Crossfire,” a revolution diary of sorts which, along with her vocal opposition to the Assad regime, has forced the author into exile.
For this Yazbek was granted the 2012 PEN/Pinter International Writer of Courage prize Monday. She will share the award with 2012 PEN/Pinter Prize winner British poet Carol Ann Duffy, who helped choose Yazbek as the award recipient.
The annual award, granted in honor of the late playwright Harold Pinter, is given to a British writer of outstanding literary merit. The winner then chooses a recipient for the Writer of Courage Award, which recognizes an international writer who shows “fierce intellectual determination."
“Giving the PEN/Pinter international writer of courage prize to the author of the Syrian revolution’s diaries is an important sign of the recognition of the Syrian people’s struggle,” Yazbek said of the award. “The honor is dedicated to the martyrs of the Syrian revolution, and to all those women who are working in silence, in particularly difficult circumstances inside Syria, and to those who move among the downpour of bullets and artillery fire, the tanks and fighter jets, in order to carry on the revolution of the Syrian people toward establishing a free and democratic society.”
“I have chosen Samar because of her literary skill... and her bravery in writing about her opposition to the bloody Assad regime when she is already such a prominent figure in Syria and so at increased risk,” Duffy said during the award presentation. “Harassment from the security services and denouncements from her family and clan have forced her to flee from Syria to Europe.”
This last point is especially noteworthy because Yazbek is from the very same Alawite clan to which Syrian president Bashar al-Assad belongs and was born in his ancestral region in northern Syria. As such, Yazbek has defected from her clan into the rebellion. With her book, she has taken an especially dangerous risk in speaking out against her own clan, an identity and affiliation that is of utmost importance in Arab lands.
“Woman in the Crossfire” chronicles the first few months of the Syrian uprising based on diaries Yazbek kept as well as stories from ordinary Syrians and those at the heart of the revolution. It is alternately courageous, arresting, and disturbing.
According to the UK’s “Spectator,” “In one of the most disturbing passages in her revolutionary diaries, written in the spring of 2011, she is questioned about her opposition writing, briefly blindfolded then taken into a series of rooms where she is forced to see men hanging in various states of torture and decomposition. Bodies covered in fresh and dried blood are suspended from metal clamps, ‘deep wounds carved all over them, like the strokes of an abstract painter.’ Assaulted by ‘the smell of blood and piss and sh**’ and the sounds of torture and screaming, she is shoved into a room where there is an unconscious young man ‘whose spine looked like an anatomist’s sketch,’ his back split open ‘as if a map had been carved into it with a knife.’ ‘Humans have become pieces of flesh on display, an exhibition of the art of murder and torture that was all for show.’”
Her depiction of accounts like this grisly scene forced Yazbek into exile in Paris with her young daughter in 2011, though she told the BBC she often returns to Syria. “I return all the time, but in secrecy,” she said. “Undercover.”
Prior to this, she wrote on women’s issues for Syrian newspapers and journals as well as several novels that challenged taboos, including “Heavenly Girl,” “Clay,” which cast a critical eye on the power of the Syrian military, and “Cinnamon,” which examines Syria’s social divide.
It is accounts like Yazbek’s – rare, chilling glimpses into an uprising and brutal crackdown that is largely kept hidden from the world community – which illustrate literature’s innate and compelling power and remind us of the crucial role literature must play in conflict.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
After seven years of litigation, Google and the American Association of Publishers (AAP) announced Thursday that they had reached a settlement in the Google Books scanning case. But the settlement leaves a key issue on the table and does little to resolve a higher-stakes suit against Google filed by individual authors.
The settlement with publishers allows publishers to decide whether Google can digitize their books or not. Publishers can “choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project,” the AAP said in a statement.
Though this changes little in the way Google and publishers already partner – Google had already scanned some 20 million books for its Google Library Project – it does illustrate how far publishing has come in the Digital Age.
“Basically when the case was filed seven years ago, that was a long time ago, and the world has changed a lot,” AAP president Tom Allen told Publishers Weekly.
“Digital books were a new and daunting prospect when the publishers first sued Google seven years ago, but they have now become commonplace,” The New York Times reported in its announcement of the settlement.
“They had this lawsuit hanging around for years, and basically the publishers have all moved on,” James Grimmelmann, a professor at New York Law School who has been following the case, told The New York Times. “They are selling digitally now. That’s the future. This just memorializes the transition.”
The case against Google was originally filed in 2005 after Google had made public its plans to create the world’s largest digital library and partnered with several major research libraries to digitize books and journals in their collections. Authors and publishers argued this constituted copyright infringement and filed suit against Google, seeking financial damages and a court order to block the copying. A deal was reached in 2008 but was rejected by federal Judge Denny Chin, who said it raised copyright and antitrust concerns.
Thursday’s deal, which involved five publishers including McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, the Penguin Group, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster, was reached privately and is not subject to court approval.
It allows publishers to decide whether to allow Google to digitize their out-of-print books still under copyright protection. Publishers who opt to have their scanned works included in the Google database will receive a digital copy for their own broad use, including rights to sell them on their own websites or make them available in other search engines.
As for Google, it can allow users to read 20 percent of scanned books online before purchasing entire digitized books from the Google Play store. Revenues will be shared with publishers, as per settlement terms.
“We’re very pleased, because the settlement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright holders and publishers, and whether they’re going to make their rights available,” said Mr. Allen in a press statement.
“What’s really exciting about today’s settlement is the fact that Google will be getting access to books that have long been out of print that are in copyright,” said Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google. “It’s good for users who weren’t able to buy them before, and for publishers.”
But the settlement does little to address the crux of the debate in the Google Books case – whether Google is infringing copyright by digitizing books. Instead, it simply allows both Google and publishers to agree to disagree, resolving the current debate but leaving more conclusive rulings for another time – and another fight.
“After Judge Chin rejected the settlement … [we] basically worked out an arrangement that doesn’t resolve the legal issues,” Allen told Publishers Weekly. “We agree to disagree on those, but as a practical matter, it does resolve our differences with Google.”
That “other fight” just may be the one tied up in court now, the much bigger case remains between Google and the Authors Guild, which represents individual authors affected by Google’s digitization project. The Guild said Thursday the publishers' settlement did not resolve its complaints against Google and its book-scanning project.
“The publishers’ private settlement, whatever its terms, does not resolve the authors’ copyright infringement claims against Google,” Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in a statement. “Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard to authors’ rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. authors continues.”
This time, the suit may result in a more decisive ruling on copyright infringement and fair use.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
He’s done it again. Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” self-described “champion bloviator,” and chronicler of presidential assassinations including the bestselling “Killing Lincoln,” just released another presidential thriller.
“Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot,” co-written with Martin Dugard, chronicles the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy with all the suspense and drama of a popular thriller (and, by some accounts, few of the citations of a history book).
“Killing Kennedy” seems destined to enjoy the same success as “Killing Lincoln,” which sold more than 2 million copies since its release a year ago. “Kennedy” hit shelves this Tuesday and is already #2 on Amazon’s bestseller list, above even J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy.”
Of course, everything about O’Reilly, including his literary success, draws controversy. Some historians, including a deputy superintendent at Ford’s Theatre, found errors in O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln” as well as a serious shortage of documentation. (At one point, Ford’s Theatre, site of the assassination, even refused to carry the book.)
In an interview with USA Today, O’Reilly called the errors “picayune” and attributed the criticism to jealousy. “These guys toil in obscurity their whole lives and a punk like me comes along and sells 2 million copies. They’re not happy.”
Any wonder he invites controversy?
With this trademark confidence, O’Reilly describes “Killing Kennedy” as “history that’s fun to read” in a “populist way. No pinheaded stuff, just roar it through!”
Co-author Dugard, O’Reilly told USA Today, did most of the research, leaving the writing to O’Reilly, whose approach is to make history accessible with thriller-like foreshadowing, dramatic details, and a you-are-there present tense. Along the way, complain his critics, he takes literary liberties with history, as in this line that describes a 1962 party in which Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe rendezvous: “There is an intimacy in their movements that leaves no doubt they will be sleeping together tonight."
(Though there is no source for this in the book itself, for the record, O’Reilly claims this line is based on an article in the British tabloid, “Daily Mail,” confirmed by a federal agent who was at the party.)
Historians cringe at O’Reilly’s lack of citation and occasional “literary liberties,” but to his credit, the Fox News host and former high school history teacher says he writes popular history “to get people engaged with their country.” Few history books are fun to read, he tells USA Today. “Even the really good ones, by Robert Caro and these guys – I mean, they’re brilliant guys, but to get through 800 pages, you either have to be retired or on vacation for six weeks.”
(Caro’s fourth book on Lyndon Johnson, “The Passage of Power,” is 712 pages with 79 pages of footnotes. O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy” is 325 pages with seven pages of sources.)
“Killing Kennedy” deals with the former President’s professional and personal life, including his many extramarital affairs. Perhaps its most intriguing subject, however, is not Kennedy, but Lee Harvey Oswald, who O’Reilly calls “.…crazy, and I mean crazy.”
O’Reilly doesn’t solve the mystery of Kennedy’s assassination in “Killing Kennedy,” or find evidence of a conspiracy, but he doesn’t rule it out.
“I know that Oswald killed Kennedy,” he tells USA Today. “Now, was he pushed? Encouraged to do it by outsiders? Possibly. Possibly. Was he sitting down with Fidel Castro? No.”
“Killing Kennedy” may not receive the academic accolades of a Caro tome, but it will get history – however flawed in its retelling – into the hands of many more people.
We can’t help but think that’s a good thing. What do you think?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.