In the tradition of coauthor David Maraniss's Bill Clinton biography, First in His Class
, this solidly researched portrait of Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore assumes readers' familiarity with his recent political activity. A scant 10 pages covers Gore's eight years as vice president, for instance; the rest concentrates instead on filling in the background. Maraniss and Ellen Nakashima both write for the Washington Post
, which published portions of the book, and their journalistic experience shows in a readable narrative that smoothly integrates quotes from extensive interviews conducted with colleagues, friends, and the candidate himself. Persuasive detail and careful analysis thoroughly delineate Gore's personality: intelligent, competitive, driven to excel but not to please. Gore's oft-criticized stiffness and perceived coldness, the authors argue, come partly from a Southern formality inherited from his father, Albert Gore Sr., himself a staunch liberal whose bitter 1970 loss of his U.S. Senate seat convinced his son that it was wise not to get too far left of conservative Tennessee voters. Though a baby boomer, admitted former dope smoker, and firm environmentalist, Al Jr. emerges here as a natural moderate, comfortable working within the establishment. This conscientious chronicle of his life and career gives a good intimation of what kind of a president he'd be. --Wendy Smith
From Library Journal
Maraniss, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of First in His Class, the highly acclaimed biography of Bill Clinton, and coauthor Nakashima, both of the Washington Post, have written a timely and valuable biography of vice president and would-be president Al Gore. Stressing the impact of Gore's privileged upbringing in a Washington, DC, political family, the authors argue that "the child remains the father of the man. Many of the behavioral patterns of the figure who would run for president in 2000 are best explained by the boy he once was." The result, they argue, is a "duality" pitting the bold Gore against the subservient Gore. There is a "struggle within Al Gore" between his self-confidence and his insecurity. Surprisingly, the authors skate very quickly over Gore's vice presidential years, arguably the time when his "duality" would be most evident. This book may suffer by comparisons to First in His Class but is nonetheless an important contribution to our understanding of Al Gore and could profitably be read along with Bill Turque's Inventing Al Gore (LJ 3/15/00).-AMichael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.