Top critical review
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Excellent Work, An Interesting Book
on July 1, 2010
First, this is not the kind of book the Amazon "Five Star" system is meant for. It is a diary, a collection of daily journal entries from the former President. It's not a question of style, political theory, or presentation of ideas, story, or arguments. "It is what it is," not the often acid or rosy-glow stained pages of far too many autobiographies and memoirs. So, while I give this book "three stars," please consider that a reflection of the fact that it's not the kind of work you can critique in the normal sense of the word.
President Reagan apparently developed the idea of keeping a journal early in his life. For his time, this would not be all that unusual. Journals and day books, for those who could afford the time and materials, were once far more common than they seem to be today. And, the writing in these books most often tended to be sparse, to the point, and not inclined to embellishment. Further, a focus on prosaic and "day to day" details was also a common feature of this writing style. Reagan, being a product of his age, follows this style faithfully. The thing I found most surprising is that he could manage to retain that kind of flatness as President of the United States, a position that must provoke all manner of emotional stressors. But, I thought he resisted whatever inclination to hyperbole he might have had admirably. In this, the daily life and a few daily thoughts of Regan the man manage to come through, and not, refreshingly, as homily to self or the crucifixion of perceived foes. These kind of unguarded, candid glimpses into the minds of the powerful are rather hard to come by, so while many of the entries might be terse and even dull, even the "dullness" is, of itself, remarkable. And a few of these notes do reveal a man who was not ignorant of the tragedy and humor going on in the nation he governed, just as they, in my opinion, reveal a man whose mental powers slowly diminished as time was going by, a clear harbinger of the dreadful illness that finally killed him. The tonal changes are subtle, but definitely there.
In a superior editing job, the text is embellished or punctuated only by very brief, bracketed comments that explain what was going on at the time Reagan wrote a particular entry. These comments are clear, concise, and to the point, and of great assistance to the reader.
No revelatory bombshells explode in these pages, no fireworks whizz and detonate. It's not that kind of work, and not meant to be. And read as what it is, it allows, perhaps, a tiny window to open in one powerful man's thinking. It will not change anyone's mind about Ronald Reagan, but it will allow a little closer understanding of him, far closer than anyone usually gets to the American President. And, for anyone interested in that subject, this is a "must have."