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The Red White and Blue Hardcover – March, 1987

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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From Library Journal

The title suggests the poster-paint colors with which Dunne portrays America in the last quarter-century. Let red stand for Leah Kaye, radical feminist lawyer; white, for Benedictine Father "Bro" Broderick, trendy celebrity priest; and blue, for long-suffering ex-husband and brother, Jack Broderick, "a successful failure" as a writer. The pilgrimages of the former two take them from the execution of a black radical through elections in a Latin American country to their murder by "a human time bomb" Vietnam veteran. Only then does Jack briefly awaken from his "passion for the vicarious." The novel aspires to the acerbic nihilism of Ambrose Bierce, from whom its epigraph, but contents itself with knocking down straw men, the opportunistic leading the naive on behalf of the unworthy in an essentially static portrait in black. Hugh M. Crane, Brockton P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 475 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671463802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671463809
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,219,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I'm always suspect of reviews like Anna's. In 2007 when she posted THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE was already 20 years old, and Dunne dead for 3. Even wife Joan Didion's respected tribute YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING was old news in '07. So when there is no good reason to struggle through 475 pages that are not being enjoyed the barbed review she gets to write at the end seems to be the purpose. I suspect an axe being ground.

I have no qualms about a chapter apologizing for digression. That's called irony, and THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE is, in my opinion, a fabulous sarcastic take on American politics during Dunne's thinking life. Yes, time does skip about - this is no easily digested summer reading. Not Faulkner-esque, but it does require some willingness to keep track of characters and what we already know about them. The style is much more like Twain, poking intellectual laugh-out-loud fun at the mighty. There is lots of graphic language, but then the mighty do lots of graphic things, and Dunne's language is not gratuitous but a fair representation of the characters he has drawn. Including a priest who does not indulge himself but knows that most people do and has no compunction about spending time in their company, and describing them aptly.

I read for pleasure only, from Faulkner to Oprah Book Club (not many of the latter, admittedly). When I don't like a book I stop reading it, and I complete about 15 a year. THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE, my second Dunne, is one of my favorites in a while. I liked NOTHING LOST as well. I will be reading a lot more by this author.
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Format: Paperback
I think John Gregory Dunne is a seriously underrated writer, especially in his memoirs like Harp and Vegas. His novels aren't as good as his non-fiction, although Playland is lively reading. He clearly put a lot of work into The Red White and Blue-- maybe too much. Its attempt to evoke the 1960s "radical chic" atmosphere is labored and unreal-- Dunne mistakes lists for descriptions-- and its characters are shallow and programmatic. Too bad.
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Format: Paperback
ISBN 0312909659 - There's a Kennedy-esque-ness to this book in some ways, but it's much more a Kennedy-wanna-be. Dunne can't seem to fit all the Kennedy into one family, so spreads it out over two connected clans.

Jack Broderick, the narrator, is the son of Hugh, a self-made billionaire who only becomes free to pursue his goals when his wife dies. He has high hopes for his three children - and even before the book begins, the sons have pretty much failed him. Only the daughter comes close, by marrying the president's brother. President Fritz Finn and his family are more the Kennedy-type than the Brodericks, but the two families are close and remain that way even after the death of Jack's sister. With Hollywood connections, lots of money, the fringe "revolutionary" elements of the 1960s and politics playing an obviously large role, the Kennedy-like images are all there.

Bro, Jack's brother, is an unusual priest with a high profile and connections around the world. Jack meets and marries Leah, an outspoken radical Jewish lawyer. She remains his one real love, even after their divorce. After the end of their marriage, Jack finds himself in Vietnam, where he interviews servicemen. Those interviews are later turned into a bestselling book which plays a surprising role in the rest their lives. When Bro and Leah are murdered, the killer and his connection to Jack ties the entire story neatly together.

The story skips around so much that it's sometimes hard to tell where you are in the timeline, who is married to who, and who is alive or dead at that point - and it's really hard to care. That a chapter begins with the phrase "Let me digress" is sort of silly; half of the book or more is the narrator digressing.
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