From Publishers Weekly
Atlantic Monthly editor Kelly, who covered Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Arafat's return to Gaza in 1994, and Bosnia in 1995, was killed in the Iraq war in April 2003. Although he'd considered himself a dove in the Vietnam years, "I am certainly now a hawk," he declared in 2002, his war coverage having convinced him "of the moral imperative, sometimes, for war." "There are things worth dying for, and killing for," as "every twelve-year-old" in Bosnia already knows. While Kelly's war reportage dominates this collection of his columns (mostly published in theWashington Post, the New Yorker and the New Republic in the 1990s), the volume also covers domestic culture and politics. Kelly's signature format was the character (or lack of character) sketch, where he'd reduce larger-than-life politicians to a decidedly human scale. Jesse Jackson "jets around the world as secretary of his own state of mind." Ross Perot was America's "first fusion-paranoia candidate for the presidency." When Bob Dole makes a speech, his phrases interrupt each other "like a call-waiting system gone awry." Beyond mere Beltway-insider cleverness, Kelly argued for a return to core American values like courage, honesty and love of country. We can't go back to being "square"-it's quite as impossible as "revirginizing"-but being patriotic and conservative could be cool again, Kelly suggests. The book's strength lies in the impact of having Kelly's war essays in one place, in chronological order, giving them a power they didn't have when sprinkled weekly in the press.
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Kelly, the award-winning journalist who was killed in 2001 while on assignment in Iraq for the Atlantic Monthly and the Washington Post, compiled an incredible body of work that reflected on American life from the mundane to the monumental. This collection, with a foreword from Ted Koppel, offers a sampling of Kelly's blistering wit and penetrating observations. Topics focus on American life, including the Catholic Church's cover-up of child abuse by priests; social stylings back and forth between square and cool culture; the game of politics that seems less about objective realty than virtual reality, including portraits of Ted Kennedy and Ross Perot (with a separate section devoted exclusively to Bill Clinton and troubling questions about his administration); the perils and absurdities of covering war; and Kelly's own life as a husband and father. An epilogue includes e-mails from Kelly to friends, family, and colleagues that evoke the personality of the man, his zest for his work, and his belief that all of us are in search of things worth fighting for. Vanessa Bush
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