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Truth Like the Sun Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 10, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2012: Told through dual timelines--the 1962 World’s Fair and a 2001 mayoral election--this is the story of a man and his city thinking big, striving for greatness … and making mistakes. Civic cheerleader Roger Morgan had been the driving force behind the construction of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. Thirty-nine years later, Morgan, now 70, decides on a whim to run for mayor, which brings him face to face with a curious and tenacious reporter--and his own murky past. Author Jim Lynch is a former newspaper reporter who deftly captures the complicated relationship between an ambitious journalist and an ambitious public official, each of them flawed and haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes. --Neal Thompson
“A flat-out great read with the spirit of a propulsive, character-driven 1970s movie…. Mr. Lynch pairs unlikely antagonists: an old-school political fixer blessed with immense charm, and an overeager newspaperwoman whose research, done in 2001, has the power to destroy him. They never behave predictably, and their showdown lingers long after Mr. Lynch’s story is over.” —Janet Maslin’s 10 Favorite Books of 2012, The New York Times
“A terrific two-track novel that alternates between—and unites—the story of Seattle in 1962, just as the Space Needle is reaching the sky, and the city’s post-dot-com gloom in 2001. The book is beautifully plotted, textured, and paced.” —Thomas Mallon, The Washingtonian
“A rich and engaging tale, with complex characters and a plot seamlessly interwoven with the history of Seattle [and] also the topics of ambition, corruption, the Cold War, and big-time newspaper journalism on the wane. The protagonists are a flawed and likeable pair that grudgingly admire each other, and the truth turns out to be elusive, often obscured by the clouds of memory and the need to sell newspapers. Anyone interested in the city, political intrigue stories, or just plan good writing should enjoy this book.” —Nancy Fontaine, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“This serious but charming rather old-fashioned sort of book about complicated folks in the midst of life's struggles is just big enough to embrace a number of important themes and topics - the making of the fair, the rise and fall of big city journalism, local politics, the details of history - and just small enough to make all of this quite intimate and engaging.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR
“A tremendously entertaining yet serious political novel… As with any fine work of art, it’s hard to divine just why this novel works so well. And, as with such art, there’s a lot more going on than appears on the surface. I dislike terms like ‘instant classic’ but this comes awfully close.” —Richard Sherbaniuk, The Edmonton Journal
“Propulsive… The poetic intensity of Lynch’s descriptions perfectly balances the restless, relentless pace of a novel that never loosens its grip.” —Anna Lundow, The Christian Science Monitor
"A beautifully crafted, fictional remembrance of the Seattle World's Fair and a cleverly plotted tale of the very public death of one man's political ambitions....Lynch is a sparkling host, rendering history in glorious technicolor and the recent past in absolute and black-and-white moral tones." —Nick March, The National [U.K.]
“Alternating between the two periods, Jim Lynch’s novel is a brilliantly disturbing dissection of political morality, where right and wrong are, like Seattle itself, blurred in a grey mist.” —John Harding, Daily Mail [U.K.]
“A swirling portrait of a place, like many a Western city, that’s equal parts hucksterism, genuine civilizational hope, profiteering racket and progressive mecca, Truth Like the Sun deserves attention and will reward reflection.” —M. Allen Cunningham, The Oregonian
“This brisk, bustling and good-humored work [is] taut and accomplished. . . clever and propulsive.” —Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News
“A story of civic pride, political intrigue and journalistic tenacity. . . Any reader interested in the relationship between any town and its most enthusiastic participants will respond to this engaging story.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“A consummate stylist….The obvious cultural touch point for Lynch’s novel is Citizen Kane, [and] readers are confronted with the American obsession with ambition is all its tarnished glory.” – Christian House, The Independent [U.K.]
"Addictive....Told in chapters that alternate between two eras, its prose reflects the two moods: 1962 sparkles like an old-time midway, crammed with celebrity cameos, souvenir Champagne glasses and fast-talking men in hats; 2001 feels reflective and a little world-weary, a city once bitten and now twice shy." —Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
"Enveloping and propulsive....Lynch's twosome, a 30-ish newspaper reporter and the much older bon vivant who is known unofficially as "Mr. Seattle" are such fine creations that they can't be reduced thumbnail descriptions....There is much marveling to be done as Truth Like the Sun unfolds. Lynch captures the excitement of a fair that proudly showed off the world of tomorrow but inadvertently revealed more than it should have." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“A briskly paced novel that gives us an insider’s view into both the politics of culture and the culture of politics.” —Kirkus
“Often funny and sometimes devastating but always to the point, Truth Like the Sun reflects back on the 1962 World’s Fair that put Seattle on the map. With the keen eye of the journalist he was and the nimbleness of the novelist he has become, Jim Lynch provides a thought-provoking fictional portrait of a city on the make and its somewhat tarnished tribe of civic strivers.” —Ivan Doig
“This book is one of a kind, and a great story. At a time when Seattle is celebrating the anniversary of the World’s Fair, Lynch’s novel is a bracing reminder of the larger context: an uncertain city hoping to make a mark in mid-century, and then figuring out where it is in a more globalized world forty years later. It’s smart – and unique – to link these with one wonderfully rendered character, still trying to have a hand in how his city will go.” – Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company
“Truth Like the Sun, read after Jim Lynch's celebrated Highest Tide, confirms the tidal wave of his talent. Set again in the Pacific Northwest he has explored in such depth and variety, this is a city story all the way. Ambition, payoff, anxiety, payback, decadence and revenge dominate Seattle's story during the World's Fair of 1962 and thirty-nine years later, during the crest of the dot.com boom and not many weeks before the World Trade Center—the Other Coast's Space Needle—endured the mother of all collapses. Lynch's power of concentration depends on his respect for quiddities. His detailing of the moment-to-moment stratagems of a reporter stalking a political big-foot, and of the big-foot's bravura evasions—the hunt proceeding throughout the storied and exotic environment of any right-minded person's favorite city—is thrilling.” —Geoffrey Wolff
“Jim Lynch writes of the city where I live with great brio and persuasiveness. The joinery between the two halves of the narrative [1962 and 2001] is seamless. His handling of the light, just-between-friends style of routine civic graft in the 1960s seems dead-on, and his only-slightly alternative history of the city is at least as plausible as the official version. His people live and breathe on the page. I was engrossed throughout.” —Jonathan Raban
Top customer reviews
Roger was the brains behind the construction of Seattle's iconic Space Needle and ran the World's Fair that took place in 1962. Forty years later and now aged over 70, he suddenly launches a campaign to become mayor. Helen is assigned to investigate his past and soon starts digging up dirt -- or is it really dirt? Perhaps it's just the normal compromises we make in the course of our lives.
Two major events bookend the story -- although they are not explored in detail. The first is the Cuban Missile Crisis and the second is 9/11 which hovers like a cloud over the book. Roger and Helen both represent dying breeds -- he the old-style, glad-handing machine politician like his hero JFK whose life cannot stand up to the scrutiny of modern campaigns -- and she the newspaper industry, on the verge of meltdown in the face of the Internet challenge.
The book is pretty good in all sorts of ways -- but it never really clasps you with an iron grip the way a truly great novel does. I read it on a plane and found it quite easy to put down. I was never that involved in the characters. I didn't care very much if Roger was elected or disgraced or if Helen got her scoop. By juxtaposing the major events of Cuba and 9/11, the author makes his characters and their fate seem small.
This book is a novel, and thus legitimately a mixture of fact ahd fiction. Lynch handles the fiction part well in the chapters related to the fair itself, but I wasn't completely satisfied with the sections concerning 2001, approximately 40 years after the fair, when the fictionalized director of the fair (Roger Morgan), considered a young organizational genius at the time, was running for Seattle mayor. Morgan is a made-up character, so Lynch can do with him as he wishes, but in the author's note Lynch indicates that Seattle underwent a significant bribery scandal in the late sixties and early seventies (which later becomes an issue in the fictionalized mayor's race in 2001), so it's sometimes difficult to separate truth from fantasy in the 2001 sections of the book. In any case, I enjoyed both aspects of the story, and would have given the part related directly to the fair 4-1/2 stars.
The meaning of the title is revealed on page 148 of the paperback version, and the "truth teller" is none other than Elvis Presley, a celebrity visitor to the fair, who says, "Truth is like the sun, isn't it? You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't going away." (Those of us living in Seattle will be relieved to hear that the sun "ain't going away.") That indeed defines the book, in which the "truth" about Roger Morgan, so revered in 1962, doesn't come out till 2001. But even then, does the "real" or "whole" truth come out? The star reporter for the Seattle PI may think so, but who in the world truly believes that newspapers ever print a definitive picture of a person, event, or situation?