From the Publisher
--The Washington Times
"Garry Wills is not only one of the country's most distinguished intellectuals but also one of its most provacative."
--The New York Times Book Review
"A completely captivating collection . . . [Wills] writes an intensely opinionated reevaluation of leaders he has encountered, autobiographical reminiscences, and insightful, mostly admiring essays on imporant people in his life."
--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Wills dines with Hillary Clinton, is on John Waters's Christmas card list, and sailed often with William F. Buckley Jr. But he sees himself as a lifetime outsider, looking in on politics, contemporary culture, and religion. His "confessions of a conventional bookworm" will engage readers with the issues and people he has covered over his long career as a journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author (Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America). He writes lovingly of his years in Baltimore and includes remembrances of the glory days of Johnny Unitas and the Colts and his connections to the work of antiwar activists Dan and Philip Berrigan. A personal reflection on his father is both distant and warmWills refers to him simply as "Jack" but wraps up the section by acknowledging a small part of his own personality that is like his father's. Verdict Wills's curiosity and personal integrity shine through this intellectual memoir that is both intimate and journalistic. Readers who have followed Wills's writing career will welcome these reflections on his life and the world around him.Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.
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Pulitzer Prize winner Wills (Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, 2010, etc.) offers up a pleasantly revealing grab bag of memories.
These rocking-chair ruminations are relaxed, intimate and impressionistic. Though he writes that he "was determined to be an outsider looking in, not a participant," he thoroughly engages with his subjects here, a number of whom were friends. These vest-pocket profiles are a genuine mix, from William F. Buckley, who emerges not as the bombastic right-winger he projected in his public life, but as a generous, risk-taking soul, a man whose "gifts were facility, flash, and charm, not depth of prolonged wrestling with a problem," to Wills's wife, who receives as endearing a love letter as the retiring Wills will likely ever openly tender. The author has canny things to say about public figures, including Richard Nixon ("an emotionally wounded man who rises to power without ever becoming a full human being"); Thomas D'Alesandro III, the hard-boiled mayor of Baltimore who cut the entitled legs out from under presidential aspirant Jerry Brown; and fellow Chicagoan Studs Terkel. But much of the best stuff concerns people at the edge of the limelight, such as organizer Septima Clark, who let Andrew Young know that arriving at a voter-registration drive in a chartered plane was "no way to join dirt-poor people getting literacy qualifications in order to vote"; opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin ("listening to the man's beautiful barking was like hearing a cave sing"); and James Bevel, the daring strategist for the SCLC who later joined Lyndon LaRouche's party and later still was convicted of incest. Only rarely do his comments fail to have bite.
Ultimately, it is Wills himself who shines brightest from these pages—owlish, ethical, skeptical of power, deep of faith and achingly honest.