The title of Ted Koppel's memoir, Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public, promises opinions that its author wouldn't deliver on camera, where he's been the anchor of ABC's popular Nightline program since 1980. And, indeed, he's blistering at times in this book, which is essentially a daily journal from 1999. That year began between President Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives and his trial in the Senate. Here's Koppel delivering his prognosis of the situation: "Whichever way it goes, it will leave a nasty aftertaste. The President and First Lady will speak piously of national reconciliation, while their loyalists ram the rockets' red glare up the tailpipes of the right-wing fanatics, who have confused low morals with high crimes." Koppel's comments are not always so interesting, but he's reliably candid. He mentions that Jordan's late King Hussein "had his share of adulterous relationships," that Dan Quayle "is not stupid. He is also likable. But you would feel uncomfortable serving under him in a platoon," and that Henry Hyde once informed him privately that "he was incontinent following his prostate surgery."
There's no particular theme to the book; these pages simply collect the thoughts of an important newsman during the course of a year (whose noteworthy events included not just the Clinton trial but also NATO's war with Serbia). Sometimes they're pompous: "I'm off for a meeting with Bill Bradley. It's at his request, which is a clear signal that he's running for the presidency." Sometimes they're funny: "Let's combine all the awards ceremonies for the communications and entertainment industries and name that one event after the single piece of equipment used by all of us--the microphone. I suggest calling the occasion 'the Phonies.'" Koppel is occasionally offbeat, as when he compares George W. Bush to Vanna White, and often informative, as when he's recommending books like Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden or Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (which he once gave as a gift to Clinton). Off Camera is an eclectic package of thoughts and diversions that will by turns intrigue, frustrate, and entertain readers. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
This is the spoken version of the daily journalDcentered around major news events (Clinton's impeachment trial, the war in Kosovo) and his personal reflections on themDthat newscaster Koppel began on January 1, 1999. Woven between the news and his opinions are personal tidbits such as reminiscences of his childhood in Germany and England, his fear of growing old, his love for his wife, his bouts with depression, his constant travels and the double-edged sword of celebrity. Listeners will readily recognize Koppel's Nightline-style delivery, although they may be surprised to find that the way Koppel reads from his memoir is no different than the way he reads from a TelePrompTer. The consummate journalist, he remains objective in delivering everything from the death of a friend and colleague to his plans for building a house. Koppel is an observer, a watcher, and although he does harbor opinionsDmany of which are clearly stated hereDthey run second to his hard-nosed reporting, even when he himself is the story. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 11). (Oct.)
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