An account of the adventurous life of Alicia Patterson (1906-1963), founder and editor of Newsday.
Before screenwriter Alice Arlen died earlier this year, she teamed with her husband, former New Yorker staff writer and TV critic Michael Arlen (Say Goodbye to Sam, 1984, etc.), to document the life and premature passing of Patterson, Alice’s aunt. Descended from a wealthy, powerful Chicago newspaper family, Patterson could have lived as an idle heiress or a philanthropist or some other choice open only to the very rich. Until age 34, she seemed rather aimless, marrying twice unhappily to men chosen by her imperious father. Eventually, she became an accomplished horsewoman and learned about flying airplanes. Twice divorced, Patterson chose her third husband on her own. Harry Guggenheim had benefitted from a family fortune in the mining business and owned estates on Long Island. Although he attempted to control Alicia, she resisted, and together they purchased a tiny Long Island newspaper. She won editorial if not financial control and slowly built Newsday into a successful general circulation daily. Feeling ignored by her husband and clashing with him about politics (she was more liberal than her generally conservative husband), Patterson developed a deep friendship with Adlai Stevenson, who became the governor of Illinois and then sought the presidency as the Democratic Party candidate in 1952 and 1956. Stevenson fell deeply in love with Patterson, and she loved Stevenson as well, albeit with less ardor. Their off-again, on-again affair defined a large portion of their later lives. Unable to bear children, Patterson's health began to deteriorate during her two final decades. She hoped to outlive Guggenheim and take total control of Newsday, but she died before he did. The authors display impressive research, but the narrative is marred by an unpleasant writing style, at turns cloying, rhetorical, and packed with too many unnecessary compound-complex sentences.
An uneven biography that should still find an audience with budding journalists and those interested in a significant period in the history of print journalism.