Election years do strange things to political books. While the number of tomes about politics invariably goes up as politicians and their supporters publish hastily written screeds supporting this position or that (or attacking said positions), the quality of the books follows a similar trajectory, albeit in the opposite direction.
In other words, most of them are awful.
The Congressional election cycle this year shows no sign of bucking this trend, as the New York Times’ Week in Review section showed us Sunday. Anne E. Kornblut looked at a new book, I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan: Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words, published by World Ahead Publishing, which has given us such gems as Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!; Thank You, President Bush: Reflections on the War on Terror, Defense of the Family, and Revival of the Economy, and Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom.
The book, which bills itself as another one of those “quote” books, like the “Bushisms” series put together by Jacob Weisberg, or Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld, which takes the Defense Secretary’s odd, rambling utterances and transforms them to poems. (Indeed, Kornblut references those two as the left-wing equivalents of the Hillary book.)
Fair enough. But it isn’t until the third-to-last paragraph of Kornblut’s article that we discover that unlike most compilations of a politician’s especially dumb quotes, “[m]any of the quotations in I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan have been culled from disputed sources or unverifiable private conversations. Did Mrs. Clinton really speak coarsely to a Secret Service agent? Who knows.”
How did no editor at the Times read that last passage without recommending that this story be killed? The Times is basically shilling for a book which, as the paper itself admits, is quite possibly, even most likely, made-up. Isn’t the point of these kinds of books to get at the true, bumbling or dishonest personality of the politicians quoted? It seems more than a little disingenuous to put the Hillary book in the same company as other “quote” books that rely on things politicians actually said.
I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan somehow manages to slime the name of an already lame genre of publishing, and the New York Times wasted valuable Sunday morning real estate in giving this collection of hearsay and innuendo more than its allotted 15 minutes of fame. (CJR Daily contacted I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan’s publicist for comment, but hadn’t heard back at the time of posting.)
Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.
Us, we’ll stick with I Never Saw My Mother Naked; The Sayings of Chairman Frank, a 1970’s compilation of real quotes from Philadelphia’s late great mayor, Frank Rizzo.