Personal and political
In Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage, Nicholas Wapshott tries rather too hard to draw parallels between the early lives of Reagan and Thatcher when all he really needs to do to explain why they faced the world as a united front is focus on their remarkable correspondence, much of which is revealed here for the first time. The two bastions of conservatism chatted and flirted like teenagers. It's true that both leaders pulled themselves up by imagination and hard work. But they succeeded less by their own virtues than by cashing in on the manifest failings in some quarters of liberal politics, which, at the time of their triumphs, was basically running on theory, moral outrage and a sense of entitlement.
Although their gestures of respect and affection toward each other were clearly sincere and abiding, the two clashed on the Falklands War (Thatcher was unreservedly for it, Reagan against), the U.S. invasion of Grenada (Thatcher mildly objected, Reagan deemed it essential) and nuclear disarmament (Thatcher vehemently opposed it). It may not be all that instructive but it is surely thought-provoking to compare the dismal state of the left when Reagan and Thatcher ascended to office to the similarly shaky condition of the right today as it contends with its own Vietnam.
ON- AND OFF-CAMERA
Peter Jennings took over the anchor spot at ABC's World News Tonight early in the Reagan/Thatcher era and held that position until 2005. Friends, family members and colleagues of the late Canadian-born ABC-TV newscaster have combined their memorial statements and reminiscences into Peter Jennings: A Reporter's Life. As one would expect from such sources, the portrait that emerges is unwaveringly positive. Jennings is depicted as a fierce editor who demands both flair and substance from his reporters. But that's about as rough as it gets. By all accounts, Jennings had an insatiable curiosity, an urge to see for himself the world's hotspots and a genuine affection for the downtrodden. More than any other network anchor, his colleagues claim, he attempted to bring balance to his reports from the Middle East. The chief flaw here is that so many of the same tales and viewpoints are repeated that they end up sounding more like character references than personality sketches. Included are a list of contributors, a Jennings chronology and a selected list of his documentaries and news specials.
TELLING TODAY'S STORIES
Edited and introduced by public radio host Ira Glass, The New Kings of Nonfiction are united only by Glass' zeal for compelling narratives. [W]e're living in an age of great nonfiction writing, he asserts, in the same way that the 1920s and '30s were a golden age of American popular song. Giants walk among us. It's a big tent these giants occupy. Michael Lewis spotlights the Security and Exchange Commission's absurd war against a teenage stock trader. Gambler James McManus whisks the reader into his world of high-stakes poker. Mark Bowden presents a stomach-turning prewar glimpse into Saddam Hussein's mad and gratuitous cruelty. Gay activist Dan Savage chronicles his thwarted efforts to become a good Republican. On the frothier side, Coco Henson Scales tells what it's like to be the hostess for a trendy New York restaurant at which the customer is always wrong or at least made to feel so.
THE WAR 40 YEARS ON
Doyle D. Glass' Lions of Medina is a splendid piece of historical reporting. He traces a group of young men from their joining the Marines, through their basic training, to their week-long ordeal by fire in northern South Vietnam during a 1967 campaign labeled Operation Medina, to their less than glorious homecoming, either to be buried, hospitalized or to face the hostility of war protesters. Glass' battle descriptions are nerve-wracking. His account is richly illustrated with battleground maps and photos. There is also a helpful list of principal characters with identifications, a glossary and an index.