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A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him Hardcover – October 19, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; F First Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030012130X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300121308
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Oral historian and journalist Takiff (Brave Men, Gentle Heroes) offers a wealth of perspective to counter-or at least complicate-the prevailing, and simplistic, image many people hold of America's 42nd president, despite two prosperous terms and a decade of post-White House foreign relations work. Somewhat predictably, Takiff begins with Clinton's birth to a recently widowed mother in Hope, Ark. and ends, more or less, with wife Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Throughout, Clinton's life is addressed by those who knew him, loved him, or, in some cases, loathed him. Chapters are introduced with snippets of conversation and deepened by excerpts of interviews, many of which Takiff conducted himself, with a wide range of people, from unknown residents of Hope to Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis, Tom Brokaw, Clinton staff members Leon Panetta, Dan Glickman, and Charlene Barshefsky, and many others. The author places everything in context and provides sufficient history to tell the full story, resulting in a book that reads like a conversation between 150 people gathered to reminisce about a complicated man.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Scholar and oral historian Takiff admits up front that this book won’t settle arguments about what kind of man former president Clinton is, whether liberal or conservative, brilliant or idiotic, empathetic or self-serving. What Takiff delivers is an astonishing collection of 171 interviews with Clinton’s friends, foes, admirers, and detractors as well as reporters and political analysts, collectively offering an intimate portrait of Clinton. The material is arranged chronologically to detail Clinton’s career from Hope, Arkansas, to Washington, D.C. Interspersed throughout are notes that provide context and clarity. Some interviews have a chatty, colorful, and personal feel, recalling little, telling moments in Clinton’s life and the larger moments—deciding what to do about the Vietnam draft, entering law school, getting married, and launching a political career and destroying it with an affair with a young intern. Others are more ponderous and analytical but still offer a personal perspective on a very complicated man, a liberal who enacted welfare reform and produced a budget surplus but failed to deliver on universal health care or come to the aid of Kosovo. Photographs enhance this astonishing look at a very complicated man indeed. Even readers who have glutted themselves on other Clinton books will enjoy the intimate feel of this one. --Vanessa Bush

More About the Author

Believe it or not, before turning to writing about history and politics full-time, I spent 10 years as a stand-up comic. Based at the Comic Strip in NYC, I toured the country, from Seattle to Iowa City, from Chicago to Corpus Christi, and countless points in between.

For A Complicated Man I interviewed 171 people who knew Bill Clinton -- from the cousin who took him to the Saturday westerns in Hope, Arkansas, to a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; from classmates at every stage of his education to familiar journalists like Sam Donaldson and Tom Brokaw; as well as over two dozen current and former members of Congress, from Democrats like Barney Frank and Dale Bumpers to Republicans like Bob Dole and the late Henry Hyde. I even met the publisher of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt.

For a lifelong political junkie like me, it was fascinating and great fun. And I like to think that those words also describe the book.

If you're interested, check out my Twitter feed: @MichaelTakiff.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this page.

MT

Customer Reviews

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Here are a couple of quick anecdotes to spur you on to reading this book.
Richad of Connecticut
The balanced interviews capture the essence of America's most fascinating tragic hero; Bill Clinton.
ReaderReader
Whether you love or hate Bill Clinton, there is a good chance you will be entertained.
Aggressive Joe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Richad of Connecticut VINE VOICE on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved it. I couldn't put it done. I didn't want to put it down. Let me help you decide if you want to read A Complicated Man. The book is 496 pages long of which 434 are dedicated to narrative. It is beautifully written in chronological order from the beginning of his life, to his post administration period. It even includes a few pages about Hillary running for President. There were over 171 individuals interviewed for this oral biography.

The accomplished author Michael Takiff takes us on a whirlwind tour of Bill Clinton's life concentrating on his Presidency since that is what most readers will find the most interesting. It is possible to move through different sections of the book without starting at the beginning. What happens is that the author will cover a period, and weave the interviews into the chapter setting. This avoids the author inflicting us with his own personal biases except at certain endpoints at the conclusion of each chapter. You will appreciate the effort Takiff took to keep this book interesting.

As we know and the author points out, the Clinton Presidency was sandwiched between the end of the cold war and prior to the War on Terror. As such President Clinton did not have the opportunity to achieve the greatness that is usually accorded a President who must deal with war, and its aftermath. Takiff is completely accurate in naming this book, A Complicated Man. If there is any term particularly appropriate for this President it is that he is complex, and difficult to wrap your hands around from an historian's standpoint. This is a man who desperately wanted to be President of the United States since childhood, and then blew himself up voluntarily.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Gordon on March 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was disappointing to me as I had hoped to learn more of Clinton as a human being, not a politician. The work is a compilation of hundreds of statements by many different associates, friends, and neighbors, each statement dealing with a specific incident in Clinton's life and how he dealt with it. The problem is the lion's share of these incidents are plucked from his political career, not his personal life. I wanted to know who Bill Clinton is -- the real, down to earth Bill Clinton away from the cameras and advisors, the media and political cronies. What's he like when it's just him and his buddies? What kind of entertainment does he enjoy? Does he have hobbies, etc.? But, then, his political life is his life. And if you want more of that then this will be a winner! Just don't expect to learn much you don't already know.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Edith S. Taber, Ph.D. on October 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"A Complicated Man", an engrossing read, is a major addition to Clinton lore. Seeing Clinton through the eyes of those who have interacted with him, we get a complete and penetrating view of this iconic figure. I give it a minimum of five stars.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ReaderReader on October 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Once again Michael Takiff takes the reader on fabulous journey drawn on the recollections of those who know the stories best. Takiff's interviewing style and writing honor both the teller and reader. The balanced interviews capture the essence of America's most fascinating tragic hero; Bill Clinton. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the man and every political junkie.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maria Sutton on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one of those millions of Americans who continues to be intrigued by our 42nd President, I found Michael Takiff's compelling account of Bill Clinton's life to be exceptionally well-written, thought-provoking, and insightful. Having read many books about Clinton by researchers who hate him or love him, it was refreshing to get an unbiased version of our President's triumphs and foibles. Bill Clinton is, and will continue to be, a complicated man--most people achieving greatness are, and Michael Takiff has intelligently captured the essence of Bill Clinton, the man. This fascinating biography has earned five stars from me--it's a mesmerizing, page-turning book that helps answer some of our questions about the life and times of the man who was our President during what some Americans consider to be the Golden Age.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Burke on November 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bill Clinton is a brilliant man and a noteworthy former President of the USA. This book tells the story of his rise to power and how his values and strengths serve the country well. The variety of sources that tell this story make the reading interesting. And it should be, because Clinton is an interesting person. Details of his life and interests are told from many points of view; and this prevents character exaggeration and allows focus on a key person in American politics.
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