August 27, 2007

Two Books

I've recently completed two books, Robert Novak's memoir, The Prince of Darkness, and Thomas Fleming's take on World War I, The Illusion of Victory. Both are good reads.

Novak, an "insider" columnist and TV personality who has gotten more conservative over the years, offers a candid account of the people he's worked with and written about. Refreshingly, Novak is candid about his mistakes as well as the many fools (as he sees it) whom he has had to suffer more or less gladly. He's particularly merciless to Jimmy Carter, whom he calls an inveterate liar, and John McLaughlin, the chat-show host, whose vanity, according to Novak, knows no bounds.

Novak also describes his conversion to Catholicism in a rather matter-of-fact way, and regularly discusses his income, an unusual bit of candor in an autobiography, but interesting nonetheless--what do the chattering classes live on?

The book is remarkably open and honest, and very much a book by a reporter, rather prosaic, full of detail, and invariably interesting.

Fleming, who's a bit of an ideologue when he writes for Chronicles, a very paleoconservative rag, writes as a historican. On display are the courage and innocence of the doughboys who were drafted to die in the fields of France, and of Robert LaFollette, who courageously opposed the war. The preeminent role is played, however, by the horrid Woodrow Wilson, whose sanctimony, inflexibility, and vanity contributed so much to the disastrous outcome of the war, as well as to the atmosphere of repression that dominated the country and echoes to this day.

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