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The Columnist Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 6, 2001
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
Frank's debut is a curious blend of ribald, tongue-in-cheek narrative and political tell-all that winds up evoking an odd sense of nostalgia for a bygone era. Former President Bush remarks to pompous, amoral columnist Brandon Sladder that he ought to write a memoir and so Sladder does. Now in his 60s, Sladder has left a trail of sources, lovers, wives and erstwhile colleagues in his wake while climbing to the top of the newspaper heap. His adventures start in his hometown of Buffalo, where he gets his father fired from his job as an insurance salesman by using confidential information from his father's files to break a big story, then capitalizes on his newspaper boss's indiscretion to blackmail his way up the ranks. When the paper is sold, Sladder moves to Washington, D.C., where, before writing for a political magazine and then a major daily, he uses a prostitute to get dirt on local elected officials. Later, it's on to the world of TV and roundtable reporter shows, but the unctuous Sladder's personal life is a mess a merry-go-round of affairs, marriage for money and ill-advised alliances with the constants being his relentless ambition and a remarkable ability to justify his own heinous behavior. Frank's smooth, fast-moving and often hilarious prose makes this a quick read, although much of the humor is dark, and the repulsive narrator makes the journey a bit thorny. The political material is enlightening and well delivered, as Sladder reveals the way things work within the Beltway in the postwar era. The result is a witty, racy and fast-moving novel that remains compelling despite its odious protagonist. Agent, Tina Bennett. (June)Forecast: Frank's current job as a New Yorker senior editor will help generate buzz, as will speculation as to which (if any) real columnist his narrator might be based on.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The innocuous, limp title is the single failure of this searingly satiric portrait of the hyperactive Washington, DC, news scene. Frank, onetime staff member of the Washington Post and its defunct rival, the Washington Star, and currently a senior editor for The New Yorker, has etched with acidic precision the story of Brandon Sladder, a mock maven who latched onto a journalism career with a bit of handy blackmail. Over a period of 40 years or so, this blot trashes two wives, two children, and a multitude of colleagues yet is never perceived as the one rotten apple spoiling the bushel. With pious quotes from Bartlett's, he whines about the trials of his successful life and claims as his confidante any famous person who ever shared an elevator with him. This book will surely be a hit in all the news capitals as insiders try to identify the true names masked behind the socialites, politicos, and other characters. Frank's mudslinging hits a media truth or two, but he plays it for laughs, and so will savvy readers in most public libraries. Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The novel is the self-serving memoir of fatheaded columnist Brandon Sladder, a man so oblivious to the size of his own ego and how he tramples on everyone around him that it is hard to hate him. Frank says little about why Sladder turned out this way; the book starts with Sladder at an Amherst-like college and advances through his career as a Buffalo beat reporter, Washington columnist, syndicated writer, and television personality. Frank gets the most laughs by playing up Sladder's obliviousness -- things his protagonist writes of with pride are really to his shame.
One criticism: Frank has Sladder get more and more odious as the story advances, and in tandem with that, he gets more and more conservative. I am a liberal myself, but this implication that Sladder's toadishness and his shift to the right are one in the same is lazy and simplistic.
Clearly there are few people like Mr. Frank who have both seen Washington in all its depravity and have the talent and, more to the point, bravery to write about it in such a scathing way. He can't be too direct of course but it's easy enough to appreciate without being a Washington insider. The result is an entertaining roman à clef.
In this well written volume, author Jeffrey Franks examines the less than noble connection between politics and the press. We learn why politicians cultivate members of the press; why political positions often gain momentum with the voters because of a favorable news editor or just a photo opportunity given to a reporter. You will ask yourself whether you are a "source" or a "friend " to a reporter. Author Franks does a fine job of satirizing the fourth estate and its elite ranks. "As my column became more popular, so did I, and I found myself drawn deeper into the social life of Washington. All at once I knew everyone (occasionally I even sensed a small stir when I entered a room)..." These are the thoughts of the novel's main character on the occasion of his 29th birthday; who else could fit into a room with him given the size of that ego?
As I read this book, which at times has some very dark and disturbing passages particularly involving the daughter of the main character, I had to put it down. I can appreciate satire and cynicism with the best of them, but some of the author's attempts to skewer go too far astray to be effective parody. Washingtonians will gobble up this book looking to find some veiled reference to themselves; "journalists" (who will purchase this book but never admit owning it) will sneer at the parody. When you're finished reading this one, you'll shake your head glad that you didn't make Mr. Sladder's acquaintance.