THE SUN KING by David Ignatius


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A splendid, star-crossed Gatsby update that roasts on the same skewer Washington’s power elite and the journalists they so easily seduce. Imagine Ted Turner buying the Washington Post just so he could woo Sally Quinn. Departing from his spy-thriller beat (A Firing Offense, 1997, etc.), Post columnist Ignatius offers a wickedly cynical insider account of irresistibly charming billionaire Carl Sandburg (“Sandy”) Galvin’s purchase of the stodgy, respected Washington Sun and Tribune (a dead ringer for the Post, despite Ignatius’s denial of this and many other factual congruencies), whose Pulitzer-winning foreign editor, Candace Ridgway, loved and left him back at Harvard. Now in her 40s, the blond and beautiful Ridgway, one of Georgetown’s old money elite, maintains a platonic friendship with David Cantor, editor of the society magazine Reveal who developed an unrequited infatuation for her back when they were putting out the Crimson together. After flattering Galvin in Reveal, Cantor uses his friendship with Ridgway to help him pry the Sun away from its stuffy family owners. Galvin apparently sweeps Ridgway off her feet, naming her editor of the paper, and hires Cantor, the snide, sarcastic narrator of this cautionary tale, with instructions to make the newspaper more fun—which, for Galvin, means sweepstakes, warm-and-fuzzy animal features, and front-page crusades for unsung victims. The entrepreneur also establishes an anarchic cable news studio and, in the form of an inner-city youth scholarship fund, throws enough money around to get good press with the mayor and at the White House. When other papers and political agencies start poking into Galvin’s shadowy past, Ridgway, by now passionately entangled with Galvin, secretly assigns Cantor and two Sun reporters to get the story first. The resulting truth says less about the promises of Gatsby-manquÇs than the twisted logic of aging Boomers, for whom success has come to mean never getting what they want. Fitzgerald’s boozy gloom brightened with social satire, bittersweet romance, and a comic send-up of all that newspapers hold dear, from a man who’s been there.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-679-44861-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999


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