by Elizabeth Drew ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 28, 1984
New Yorker writer Drew is a master of the parenthetical insertion, and that's just one of the traits that make her painstakingly descriptive reportings on political events more than mere description. Sometimes Drew uses her parentheses to substantiate a point: for example, writing about the run on the congressional television galleries after the Soviet downing of Korean Airlines flight 007, she observes that some of the politicos ""sounded as if they were reading from a thesaurus,"" and follows with Senator Robert Byrd's parenthesized comments that the attack was ""revolting, revulsive, repulsive."" Other times, she uses parentheses for the particularly astute observations of others. (Says ""someone who watches politics closely"" on the matter of John Glenn: ""I don't know what he does. I don't associate him with any active verbs."") But Drew's best use of the parenthetical device is in her reports on speeches, where she interrupts to comment on the speaker's style or timbre, or, most importantly, to fill in the reader on matters of fact. Here is Drew, at her most devastating, on Jeane Kirkpatrick's speech to the Republican National Convention: ""She listed a large number of countries in which 'Soviet influence expanded dramatically' between the time of the fall of Saigon, in 1975 (during the Ford Administration), and January, 1981. The list included countries where ""Soviet influence"" grew before Carter came into office (and included both South Yemen and Aden, which is the capital of South Yemen). . ."" With and without parentheses, speeches and interviews figure prominently throughout these periodic journal entries (previously published in The New Yorker). The Democrats naturally occupy the center stage as the Mondale candidacy soared, dipped, and sputtered through the primaries. Drew's pictures of the candidates are telling. She paints Mondale early as a dignified, complex man--but one who clearly stumbled into something less noble as he countered the Hart threat. (She also shows the slippery Gary Hart, working on his nonideological image full-time.) The dignified Mondale reemerges in the presidential campaign, and Drew repeatedly says that the public never really saw the real Mondale--who truly believed that he couldn't let his children down by compromising his politics. Drew depicts Reagan as a man who likes to quote statistics, erroneous or otherwise, and who is neither on top of his job nor capable of coming up with unrehearsed or unlearned one-liners. (She notes that Reagan's 1980 New Hampshire zinger--""I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green""--is almost a verbatim line from the movie, State of the Union.) If the election outcome now appears foreordained, Drew, quoting Reagan aides, reminds us that everything broke right for the incumbent this year; it wasn't so clear what would happen when Drew started down the long, arduous road. As a record, her journal is indispensable; as a running commentary it is nuanced and brilliant, which is what we've come to expect.
Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1984
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1984
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