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An entertaining and somewhat enlightening "thoughtography"
on September 23, 2008
Forgive me if my critique is not "pithy"
I couldn't wait to read this book. I bought it this morning and left work early so I could read it. Why? Because Bill Oreilly fascinates me and I thought his memoir would give some real answers as to how this man, who truly is an American original, thinks.
First off, I actually had the privilege of meeting and briefly working with Bill Oreilly. After graduating college in the early nineties, I wrote to Mr. OReilly and asked him for advice on getting a job in television. I knew nothing about him, only that he was a fellow graduate of my high school (Chaminade High in Long Island) and that he was the anchorman of some show called "Inside Edition" (which I had never even watched)
To my surprise, Mr. OReilly not only responded but invited me to the studio, took me to lunch and offered me a temporary production assistant job for Inside Edition. I began a career on Wall Street shortly after my stint with Inside Edition ended, but I have always been grateful to him for helping out some kid he didn't know. He is a man of character.
And let me tell you, the man is fearless in every way and he is not a phony. He is exactly like he is on screen (albeit more reserved). Which is why I wanted to read this. I wanted to know- what makes this man tick? How did he come to be the person that he is today?
Does this book answer these questions? - Sort of
Not really a complete life memoir(by his own admission),"Bold Piece" is a kind of "Thoughtography"-a collection a remembrances of his early life followed by essays on how they shaped his current actions.
With chapter titles like "Politics" "Fear" "Saving the World" and "Standing for something", Mr. Oreilly intersperses stories of his early life with how they affected his later life dealings and adult philosophies.
Does it shed light on the inner life of the man? To a degree, yes.
The book has many entertaining and insightful highlights including:
1) A story about a grammar school classmate named Norma was especially touching. It will make you understand his sometimes-heated anger at injustice.
2) As a graduate of Chaminade High School, I especially enjoyed his thoughts on class warfare at the school. It is a subject rarely discussed to any effectiveness. His story about the "Levittown Sandlot- Chaminade football game" could be an entertaining Disney Movie
3) It gives a sense of the importance of his life experiences. Unlike Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who I doubt have EVER sought to expand their horizons, Mr. Oreilly has walked the walk. He has traveled to 70 countries, received 2 graduate degrees, and even taught at an inner city high school. His stories about a student named "Miss Jones" and his exposure to Anti Americanism while studying abroad will help you further understand his self reliance and love of country view point.
4) His stories about friendship are especially touching. An expansion of his "Friendship Factor" chapter in his first book, he gives examples of why his friends are so important to him. The Joe Spencer - Peter Jennings story is especially moving. He really should write an entire book about the importance of friendship. It is his most astute chapter.
But the big question I wanted to know -why is this man so confident and fearless?- Is never quite answered. Having grown up in his native Long Island, I have known many a person like Bill OReilly. You could magically drop them onto the far side of the galaxy and they will always espouse hard work, faith, family, and the goodness of America without the slightest doubt. After reading this book, I've come to the conclusion that Mr. OReilly simply is one of those men and probably always will be. No matter what their experiences in life, some people are just born that way.
A few critiques-
1) I do think Mr. OReilly should fess up and admit that he took a teaching job in the early 70's partially to avoid being drafted (he quits the job in 1973 just as the war ends) . It is clear that that was at least a strong possibility.
2) I also think he should have elaborated on what I think is his greatest dichotomy. Why does he have so a low opinion of the competence of federal government yet sincerely believes their actions in Iraq at the time of invasion were not to be questioned?
3) I think he is a little too hard on Katrina Victims. In one section, he explains that he would have "gotten in his car and left" in the same situation, never once thinking that most of the people couldn't do that because they didn't HAVE cars.
4) I also think he was just a little too hard on the movie "Love Story" (you have to read the book). I loved that movie!
All in all - a good enlightening read but not the "Window into the Soul" that I was hoping for.