George Packer Bashes Bush's Book

Often when an RPCV book is reviewed on this site and receives a negative review I get an angry email from the irate author who says something to the effect, “I wrote it, therefore, it is good!”

Well, having published something like twenty-five books and received more than my ‘fair share’ of negative reviews, I can understand the feeling. But if a writer —  especially a ‘self-publishing writer — has the audacity (yes, audacity!) to publish anything and then put the book out into the market place for others to buy and read, then, well, they have to suffer the slings and arrows, and perhaps praise, for what they wrote. That’s what publishing is all about.

But if you are George W. Bush and you write your memoir and it gets into the hands of George Packer (Togo 1982–83) to review it for The New Yorker . . . well, watch out.

Packer does a job on Bush’s book, Decision Points (which naturally is a runaway best seller), in the November 29, 2010, issue of The New Yorker.

personal-memoirsAll books — fiction or non-fiction — tell you who the writer is if you read between the lines. Here is just one short excerpt from Packer’s long review of Bush’s confessional tome. Early on he (Packer) makes the point why Bush’s Decision Points will not endure, as did, for example, The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, considered by most as the only great ex-President tale. Packers writes:

Here is a prediction: Decision Points will not endure. Its prose aims for tough-minded simplicity but keeps landing on simpleminded sententiousness. Bush credits no collaborator, his memoirs reads as if they were written by an admiring sidekick who is familiar with every story Bush ever told but never got to know the President well enough to convey his inner life. Very few of its four hundred and ninety-three pages are not self-serving.

There is much more where that came from. Packer goes onto write,

Every memoir is a tissue of omission and evasion; memoirs by public figures are especially unreliable. What’s remarkable about Decision Points is how frequently and casually it leaves out facts, large and small, whose absence draws more attention than their inclusion would have.

I suggest you read Packer’s review in The New Yorker and skip the 493 pages of Bush’s Pablum.

Or as Clemenza said in the Godfather, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

3 Comments

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  • It was wonderful seeing Grant’s memoir referenced.
    After having read it (years ago) regardless of anything I see written, or hear spoken concerning Grant, I can only think of his masterpiece – its beautiful prose and its heart-braking honesty.
    It is, indeed, the gold standard of such work.

  • In the past, publishers used to pretend that the celebrity was the author but would put in small print on the cover the name of the ghost writer so that everyone would know who actually did the writing. Now, with Bush and with Palin and McCain, they don’t mention who it was, so 99% of the readers will actually believe that these two dummies plus John wrote their own prose. The RNC keeps quiet about the stable of writers who write the books for Republican politicians. Democrats, of course, are bright enough to write their own most of the time, as has been the case with Obama.

  • Lauri I don’t believe Republican “celebrities” use ghost writers any more than do Democrat “celebrities.” Your comment smacks of the extreme partisanship so lamented in today’s politics.

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