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Talking Back: . . . to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels Paperback – December 26, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038733
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,338,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Millions of TV viewers may feel they already know Mitchell—she has reported on politics for NBC for some 30 years and is married to the Fed's Alan Greenspan—but there's lots to learn about her in this engrossing memoir. Mitchell began as a "copyboy" at radio station KYW in Philadelphia in the 1970s. After covering the major political conventions for them, she was hired by NBC and headed to Washington. Shortly after, she flew to Guyana for her first major story: the 1978 Jonestown massacre. She has covered all the presidents from Carter through George W. Bush, done exclusives with Castro, sat in on high-level negotiations in the Middle East and North Korea, and much more. Mitchell's tales are fascinating, but her evolution as a journalist is even more intriguing. She was a gender pioneer, for example, but her gender rapidly became a nonissue. Yet her original insistence on a clear separation of work and social life seems progressively undercut by her own account. She mentions many dinners with dear friends like the Cheneys, and parties with the Bushes, Rice and Rumsfeld, and then wonders why the media got the Iraq WMD question so wrong. Still, this is a treat for political junkies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mitchell, who began her long career as a television reporter at a time when women were severely restricted, gained respect as she faced down a range of powerful figures from Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo to Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In this absorbing memoir, Mitchell recalls her climb to the top of her profession, including stints at NBC Nightly News, Today, and Meet the Press. Mitchell recalls encounters with major figures, from bullying by Don Regan to the kindness of President Reagan even as he was being heavily scrutinized for Iran-Contra. She offers a behind-the-scenes look at powerful Washington politicos, including her husband, Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan. Mitchell also offers a personal glimpse into her life, weighing the personal access that her relationship with Greenspan gave her to powerful figures against worries about her journalistic independence. This is a frank and revealing book by a respected journalist whose career spans three decades. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

In her second role she is Mrs. Alan Greenspan of the Federal Reserve.
John Matlock
This is a fabulous read...you can hear Andrea speaking as you read ...descriptive, exciting and historically fascinating.
B. Eisner
The biggest flaw is it reads too much like a popular history of recent events.
Bradley F. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Hirschel S. Adler on October 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Having heard Andrea Mitchell discuss this book on the radio, I set aside a few other books to read it as her work experience and my interests are a perfect match. Sadly, autobiographical books can provide dramatic and interetsing insights or they can simply be a calendar of events. Ms. Mitchell's book is a calendar of events.

What may work on television in sixty second tidbits does not work for her in this book. She offers no insights, only a listing of events. The classic example is her meeting with King Faisal's daughter after a dinner when the King's daughter offers to bring in a few "draping veils" so that her guests could see what it was like to wear one. Ms. Mitchell tells the reader of the event, but takes not a moment to inform the reader of the conversation that took place with the daughter while and after they were trying the veils on and thereafter. That conversation and insights therefrom are what I look for in a book such as this one.

The book could be a decent read to someone who is unfamiliar with the period or unread about the events of the past twenty or so years or to someone that likes to read a calendar with an occasional, yet undisciplined and unsupported "shot" at the Republicans.

If you have read President Clinton's My Life, not itself a spellbinder, there is nothing in this book that will not be a reprise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By OppEd on August 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Many of this book's reviews complain that Mitchell's autobiography is more history than memoir. That's totally true, but here's why I think she can get away with it--almost:

Andrea Mitchell is a journalist. Unlike many journalists now who love BEING the news instead of REPORTING the news, Mitchell maintains the highest journalistic standards and I think her book shows that. Unfortunately, it makes for pretty terrible autobiographical writing. The reason she can almost get away with it is because her bad autobiography shows in the most obvious way what a great journalist she is! Let me put it another way: Mitchell's trouble writing about herself shows how ingrained the sense objectivity is in her (not that any writing is ever purely objective, but I digress.)

As someone born in 1981, I honestly enjoyed Mitchell's history of what made the news since the sixties--it's pretty interesting and well-written. I guess the problem is that I bought a book about Andrea Mitchell, not history. The sense of self-censorship really overpowers the book; Mitchell is ridiculously guarded. She's insightful about everything except herself!

In the end, I had fun reading her "memoir" and I think her difficulty writing about herself actually does reveal a lot about her. I think also that it might have behooved her to wait until retiremement--or whatever her version of retirment will be--to write her memoir. Maybe she'll give it another shot, and we'll see a more revealed Mitchell.

But hey, I liked it anyway.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Connie G Scammell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
And people who are expecting a tell-all, fully detailed account of Andrea's life had better look elsewhere. This book is about her rise into the national broadcasting media. (If people want a detailed account they should read Magdaleine Albright's book "Madame Secretary.") This is not a book revealing every secret, ever detail of every person she interviewed or her feelings of all the events she covered. She's more "Just the facts, Sir" type of writer.

Now, with that out of the way, this is an easy-to-follow chronology of events as Andrea Mitchell saw them starting her days as a Philadelphia reporter for KYW and then the Jonestown massacre in late 1978. But it was later with Three Mile Island in March 1979, her first national exposure as an energy correspondent that brought her to the forefront as an aggressive reporter. It was a line on page 46 that summed up Andrea's personality, when she wanted to be there to cover the Three Mile Island melt-down but was denied her chance to report because her supervisor, an elderly and paternal Sid Davis didn't want Andrea, as a woman of child-bearing age, be exposed to potential nuclear radiation: "Men's testicles were as vulnerable to radiation as women's ovaries. I was on a plane to Three Mile Island the next day."

She was there for the rise of Ayatollah. She spoke well of Reagan as a gentleman, but also reported on his often-noticed fatigue, disorientation and his lack of detail which he delegated to his advisors. She was much less forgiving of Reagan's Chief of Staff, Don Regan.

Had Mitchell written with greater detail there's no doubt that this book would have required many more pages.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on August 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I began taking interest in Andrea Mitchell's reportage because of her hard-boiled demeanor on Don Imus's late radio program. Unflappable, funny, and professional, these appearances were enough to lure me to her "behind-the-scenes memoir." And I'm not sorry to have read it. Mitchell may be "just" a TV journalist, but she is a strong writer and a keen analyst.

Perhaps the best part of TALKING BACK is its review of the last few decades of world and national events that it provides. Mitchell's after-the-fact analysis on the news that she has already covered gives the material a refreshing and even educational new angle. Revisiting these stories is interesting; for example, I had forgotten how horrible and divisive the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were.

To be sure, there are some problems with the book. Reading about her attendance as a guest at White House soirée after soirée made me wonder about her objectivity. Mitchell is perhaps overly coy about her own life as well. After 400-odd pages, I found no reference to her birth year, and her marriage with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is never described as being much deeper than "he is my biggest fan."

SIDELIGHT: My favorite mixed metaphor from the book: "It seemed tailor-made for someone who had cut her teeth covering Frank Rizzo."
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