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The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington Hardcover – July 10, 2007
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
The barbs start flying on page one (Bush critic Joseph Wilson: What an asshole!) and continue to nearly the end (CNN correspondent Ed Henry: duplicitous phony) of this thick memoir by the conservative journalist and pundit. Novak recounts his journey from Associated Press cub reporter through longtime Evans and Novak columnist scooping up Beltway political dirt to ubiquitous talk-show talking head. Along the way he drinks and gambles, battles liberal media bias, wrangles contracts with cable channels, settles scores with critics (more-hawkish-than-thou pundit David Frum is a cheat and a liar), defends his outing of Valerie Plame and tosses in many old columns, which read like a seismograph tracing of political microtremors (Melvin Laird to be Nixon's defense secretary!). More tantalizing are the glimpses of his relations with official sources, who know they won't be attacked in print as long as they give good tips. Novak's insider perspective, vitriolic pen and damn-the-torpedoes frankness make it a lively and eye-opening account of big-foot journalism. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Novak immediately cuts to the chase, beginning this memoir with his first in-person encounter with Joseph Wilson, in the green room of NBC's Meet the Press in 2003. Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, would eventually form the center of a major career-jeopardizing controversy for Novak, who is blunt in his immediate low opinion of the man. And that characteristic bluntness reigns throughout as he recalls 50 years of political reporting. He was working for the Associated Press when he met his mentor, Willard Edwards of the Chicago Tribune, a "diehard right-wing Republican who was part of the Red-hunting establishment." Edwards is only one of the fascinating characters--both reporters and politicos--appearing throughout the book, including John and Bobby Kennedy, George W. Bush, Ted Turner, and Novak's former partner, Rowland Evans. He is frank and unapologetic about his work, his viewpoints, and his personal shortcomings. Ambitious and, for a while, very much a part of the liquor-soaked Washington power scene, Novak neglected his family. True to his conservative beliefs and sentiments, he traces the trajectory of Republican influence and his disagreement with Republican presidents. Novak also traces the growth of Washington from a sleepy town to a power center, prone to treacherous machinations. Having traveled through the chronology of news events of the past 50 years, Novak returns to the Plame Affair, detailing the fallout of his column "outing" Plame as a CIA agent and expresses no regrets. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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While I didn't really expect this to be the most exciting book to read, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself fully engrossed by Novak's account of his life in D.C. He doesn't hold back from admitting (and sometimes vividly recounting) his foibles and follies, and never claims to be a better person than he is. The honesty displayed here is extremely refreshing, as Novak in no way tries to make himself larger or more important than in reality. The only time the book adopts a somewhat bitter tone is in the sections about the Plame affair, which have understandably been driving him up the wall for the past four years.
Novak's involvement in the Valerie Plame affair is detailed here in totality for the first time. Very interesting stuff that effectively demolishes Wilson's and Plame's accusations and shows that the whole episode was ballooned by anti-Bush sentiment among the media and the Democratic party. This part of the book is by no means the most interesting or important, and in fact takes up only two chapters out of about thirty.
Bob Novak has been ridiculed, threatened, and condemned (just see some of the reviews on Amazon) by the extreme left and the extreme right for two simple reasons: he tells the truth and he doesn't refrain from displaying his own opinions and views. Additionally, he has been instrumental in influencing policies and the viewpoints of his readers. Political correctness is not something you'll hear people applaud or condemn him for. Brutal honesty is what he is known for, and that is what you get in this book.
You learn a great deal about the symbiotic relationship between the media and politicians. Journalists want scoops and politicians leak--each to further their own interests. For the most part, Novak is able to name his leakers over the years because they have died or given permission. Many of the names will be familar to even a casual political observer.
Novak was amazingly energetic, at the same time writing columns and books, covering political campaigns and elections, and participating in numerous TV programs. He was well paid for all of this activity, as he discloses in detail. He even adjusts his income for inflation.
The book was written when Novak was 77 years old and he is often self-critical, wondering whether his reporting on someone was compromised by how that person treated him. This lends credibility to his version of events.
I have followed politics for the last 35 years, so I am generally familar with most of the people and events Novak covers. I doubt someone who is younger or has only a limited interest in politics will find this book nearly as enjoyable as I did.
In addition, as a new citizen to US (legal immigrant via technology specialty), I really learned so much about contemporary US history from Novak's book. I did not know that JFK, a liberal, proposed tax cuts and believed high tax will kill workers' incentive. I also did not know the hard work Reagan put in to pacify communism (in hindsight, we thought everything was pure luck) and finally, I found the episode of Al Gore compelled by Gore Sr. to fulfill the dream of Presidency illuminating.
I personally learned a lot from this book. I also consider myself lucky as Novak is a straight shooter who told his story honestly without spin. This is the best teacher a student like me can hope for.