From Publishers Weekly
This volume serves as an appropriate remembrance of the acerbic longtime NBC News and, later, ABC, anchorman, who died in June. A journalist since 1938, Brinkley was an unusual figure in American life: a mainstay media personality whose defining trait was intelligence and good judgment. The subtitle serves as an exact description of the table of contents, as the book indeed does begin with personalities (Hoffa, Reagan), then recounts some of his travels (Hong Kong, Vienna) and closes with reflections on events like the Kennedy assassination. As befits memories of a Washington journalist, the "People" section focuses almost entirely on Washington political creatures, some of them obscure (e.g., Martin Dies, May Craig). The sketches are purposely brief, verging on perfunctory: Brinkley consciously keeps his remarks on the surface, so only some of the sketches have compelling insights to offer. The sketch of Bobby Kennedy, a friend of Brinkley's, is a notable exception, capturing the split nature of his truncated career. Brinkley's skill at handling tone is better displayed in the final two sections. His thoughts about the men who made sacrifices at Normandy in 1944 are very moving; writing about the Mediterranean, he is appropriately charmed and awestruck by its history. Brinkley wrote a somewhat similar volume in 1995, although his tenor has softened considerably in the intervening years.
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In this posthumously published memoir, Brinkley's well-known wry perspective is brought to bear on some of the most notable people, places, and events of his 50 years in television news. Brinkley came to Washington, D.C., in 1943 to begin a career that would put him in contact with an array of memorable figures, including Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo, whose career was "distinguished by its unabashed racism," and Congressman Martin Dies, the original architect of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Brinkley covered 11 presidents during his career but profiles only 3: cunning, energetic Lyndon Johnson; Ronald Reagan, whom Brinkley found impenetrable, "a man who filtered reality through a set of assumptions and preconceptions that he refused to question"; and Bill Clinton, coming to office with great promise but ultimately as overestimated as president as he had been underestimated as a candidate. The places Brinkley recalls include Normandy in 1944 and 1994 and black-and-white Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s. Given his longevity as a television journalist, his access to the powerful and influential, and his own sardonic perspective, Brinkley offers an engrossing look at the most fascinating people and events of the last half-century in a fitting capstone to his memorable career. Vanessa Bush
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