MEMOIRS by David Brinkley


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A modest, enjoyable, and minor memoir by a journalist who has seen much 20th-century history in the making. Brinkley, whose last book touched on his life as a young wartime correspondent (Washington Goes to War, 1988), writes winningly of his North Carolina boyhood; his first attempts as a writer, encouraged by kindly librarians and teachers; and the good luck and hard work that made him a national figure. He is long on memories of small incidents, less concerned with large events. Thus, in the place of portentous ""I was there"" analysis, we have Brinkley's charming account of a marathon poker game among leaders of state before Winston Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech, in which Harry Truman instructed his staff to let the British stalwart come out ahead; in the place of bragging about scoops and discoveries, we have Brinkley's self-effacing recollections of missed stories, as when he ignored the efforts of an anticigarette group active decades before the surgeon general's report. The avuncular, sometimes exasperated tone that marks Brinkley's television persona carries over well into these pages. He turns in affectionate recollections of colleagues like John Cameron Swayze (who died last month), noting that Swayze never used a TelePrompTer and had ""an inoffensive down-home manner and style"" that swayed viewers to trust him as they would few other journalists. He gives backhanded compliments even to scoundrels--""in Washington, a city already well supplied with your ordinary, everyday liars, nobody could lie like [Joseph] McCarthy,"" he remarks in passing--and tells us that Richard Nixon could neither tell nor appreciate a joke. Brinkley's anecdotes, never earthshaking, give human scale to the big picture he has devoted his professional life to covering.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1995
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf