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Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 22, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Starred Review. Whatever your political leanings, you'll be alternately pleased and dismayed by the parade of highly intelligent contributors-including fiction author Lorrie Moore, New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean and Vanity Fair editor Leslie Bennetts-offering their views on presidential candidate and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. Though many issues are covered, the most prevalent is the gender question: "I wish I could vote gender blind," says novelist and essayist Kathryn Harrison, but admits that, "everything else being equal, I will vote for a woman over a man." Rarely, if ever, has cookie-baking (or not baking), hairstyles and spouses been so often brought up in relation to a presidential candidate, but the question of authenticity dogs the every move of both Clinton and her critics; says Laura Kipnis, "the specter of loss looms at the moment, at least for men... So what gets spoken of instead? Well, hair for one thing." Elsewhere, Daphne Merkin looks at Bill and Hillary as a couple; Susan Cheever examines Clinton's list of favorite books; and Deborah Tannen explores the "damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't paradox of women in charge." Readers interested in Hillary, gender politics or the evolution of the presidential campaign should find this book fascinating.
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"A timely book of essays (or critiques, it often seems) written by many of today’s prominent women writers....the book is decidedly fluid....the contributors share a certain elegance in tone....the collection is a unique study and more insightful, if critical, than a general biography." -- Forbes.com

"An unusually insightful and particularly well written collection." -- Daily News

"As these witty, insightful voices struggle to get a grasp on this larger-than-life figure, they expose how difficult a task that really is." -- Redbook Magazine

"Clever, entertaining, provocative, and elegantly written." -- Newsweek

"Intriguing…. These essays attest to the infinite subjectivity of people’s views, the pure relativism of perception….This volume of reflections corroborates Mrs. Clinton’s own long-ago observation that she is ‘a Rorschach test’ for voters." -- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"Pithy, imaginative, and bold essays by exceptionally shrewd women writers....In all, a discerning, engrossing dissection not only of a galvanizing figure but also of our conflicted feelings about women and power." -- Booklist

"The collection gathers strength as the variety and ferocity of opinions, insights, disappointments, and projections unfolds, often revealing more about the writers than about Hillary, and more about our warring notions of power, politics, and sex roles than it seems possible to hold in any brain at one time." -- Elizabeth Benedict, Huffington Post

"Thirty Ways does provide grist for thought....canny and thoughtful." -- New York Observer

"This original collection features a stellar group of women writers." -- Newsday

"Well-written...thoughtful." -- Miami Herald

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0061455938
  • ASIN: B001O9CGP8
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,256,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan H. Gerard on January 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a fun book, though mixed. (Who cares if you think Hillary is a cat or a dog? or what she eats?) Roz Chast is Hillaryous. Leslie Bennetts' "Beyond Gender" is the longest essay and also the last, so many will never get to it. But it is a scathing, funny, thoughtful review of Hillary's career in the context of feminism's failure, thus far, to change archtypes, stereotypes, and monotypes. She catalogues how the public overlooks or forgives the sins of male politicians while demanding that women politicians conform to society's traditional view of the role of women.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm betting the editors of the recently released collection of essays called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary were assuming the presidential political landscape would look a bit different today, at least from a marketing point of view.

If the primary race was over and Hillary had become the Democratic nominee after Super Tuesday, as many expected would happen, they probably sensed that this baby would be a best-seller.

There isn't a lot that's particularly revealing about Clinton in Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary. It's more a volume of essays about how the various authors feel about her and view her in ways (usually) not covered by the main stream media.

I was a little surprised at the critical and sometimes flip tone of some of the authors. Some of the essays ponder who is the real HRC? Is she a dog person or a cat person? Is she better or worse than Lady Macbeth? What did she like to snack on in the White House?

(Can you imagine the outcry if someone had written a similar volume about any of the men candidates?)

While entertaining and well-written, I'd like to look at Hillary in a 31st way.

What would her candidacy have looked like if she hadn't married Bill?

What if she had married someone else, kept her name and was still Hillary Rodham? If we take the Bill Clinton lens off the glasses through which we scrutinize Hillary, what would an objective look at her candidacy be? I have a feeling it would be much more charitable in terms of her experience, her personality and her judgment.
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Format: Hardcover
Is there anyone who is neutral about Hillary Clinton? It isn't even as simple as you love her or you hate her, although there are plenty of people who do simply love her or hate her. Many of us want to like her or used to like her or liked her during the brief period between finding out about Bill's Oval Office tryst with an intern and the moment she uttered "vast right-wing conspiracy." Quite a few people would love to see a woman as president but can't bear the thought of that woman being Hillary Clinton. What is it about her? What is it about us?

Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary gathers thirty essays by women who think and write for a living. Most of the pieces here take the subject seriously, notwithstanding a trivial piece by Susan Orlean on whether Clinton is a cat person or a dog person and a mock high school yearbook page by Patricia Marx ("pet peeves: bad punctuation, martial law"). Some essays seem frivolous at first, but turn out to be quite thoughtful, such as Mimi Sheraton's look at Hillary through her taste in food and Lauren Collins on Clinton's apparent lack of hobbies.

Several writers have written about Hillary Clinton before and stand by their controversial opinions such as Robin Givhan on Clinton's cleavage. On the other hand, Judith Warner all but apologizes for her 1992 biography, Hillary Clinton: The Inside Story: Revised and Updated, which at least one reviewer called a hagiography.

There are no right-wing hit jobs in this collection, but Laura Kipnis does a survey of Hillary biographies (many of which fall into the hit job category) and finds they reveal more about the authors than about Clinton.
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Format: Hardcover
Like the proverbial six blind men independently feeling the outer epidermis of an elephant to determine exactly what kind of animal he is, immediately after the 2008 election cycle, thirty women writers gave their own independent views of Hillary Rodham Clinton in order to see exactly what kind of political animal she is. It is left as an exercise to the reader to pull these thirty views together into a coherent composite view that will inform voters in the run up to the 2016 election. Thus, the review of this book necessarily has to take on the character of an essay, since it is the reader's pulling together of the thirty parts into one coherent whole, that will serve to inform voters. So here goes my essay:

Except for the entry on whether Hillary is a "cat" or "dog" person, which I found a bit insulting, each of these pieces was thoughtful and contributed to forming a more rounded view of just what kind of political animal Mrs. Clinton really is.

To their credit, these women wasted no time -- bypassing the easy stuff like style and personality -- and going straight to the heart of the matter, to the jugular in fact: Hillary's ambitions and obsession with power politics.

Unfortunately, after wading through all of the obvious biases and prejudices most often used against Mrs Clinton -- the most prominent being "the double barrel double standard sexist bias," in which both men and women have sexist expectations of her -- it came somewhat as a surprise to me that, at the end of the day, most of the stereotypes tended to stick to Hillary like so much velcro. Perhaps that is what still accounts for her high negatives?
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