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A curious biography
on December 6, 2006
John Dickerson's biography of his mother, Nancy Dickerson, the trailblazing television correspondent of the 1960s, is a melange of facts and feelings. At the end of the book, the reader is left with as many unanswered questions about the author's relationship with his mother as he or she begins with...the disconnect between them is authentic and nearly lifelong and I wonder if this is really a biography about her or about him.
Having watched John Dickerson on TV in recent months he certainly comes across as articulate and charming...traits he undoubtedly inherited from his mother. "On Her Trail", however, takes a while to get into after the author relates his emotional childhood baggage. Beyond that, the narrative is sluggish and continually sad. There are some humorous anecdotes, to be sure, and the most fascinating part of the book delves into Nancy Dickerson's friendship with Lyndon Johnson... but as John Dickerson points out, his mother's growing fame undermined her. She became too close to many of the people on whom she reported and her career suffered because of it. Yet there is a mawkish quality to the author's writing that makes "On Her Trail" easy to put down from time to time.
While I'm happy to learn more about Nancy Dickerson, whom I remember watching from her days at NBC, I'm curious to know why her son has written a biography of her that is enlightening to a degree but self-serving to another degree. John Dickerson seems still to be working out his relationship with his mother years after her death.