Swift and often affecting debut memoir about the author’s experiences working for Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign.
Looking back on her months with Bradley, from the optimism of Iowa to the death wounds of Super Tuesday, Sullivan writes, “I don’t think I was a cynic when I started and I don’t think I am a cynic now, but somewhere in between I learned what it is to hate.” Objects of her hatred include the media and Al Gore. She believes the former set unrealistic expectations for Bradley and then dismissed him when he failed to meet them; she views the latter as an unprincipled mannequin. (The slender, not-yet-30 former college athlete also reveals in several places a disdain for people who are older and overweight, calling one person, for example, “a big, fat middle-aged man.”) Like many other novice writers, the author is not certain what is common knowledge, what is not. So she tells us that John Steinbeck wrote Travels with Charley and identifies the Holland Tunnel and Cornel West. She also drops into her text some obtrusive quotations from Richard Hofstadter, George Orwell, and others. Still, she displays in numerous places a fresh phrase, a sharp eye, and keen ear as she describes her undying affection for Bradley and her round-the-clock schedule of planning campaign events in unfamiliar Iowa, dealing with the hated media, skirmishing with a pushy Secret Service agent, eating inedible food, trying to anticipate (and counter) the moves of the Gore team, and suffering from exhaustion so deep that one of her sisters barely recognizes her when they meet near the end of the campaign. Most touching of all are memories of her father, who died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer, interwoven with and contrasted to Bradley’s moribund campaign.
Missteps aside: an energetic new voice that can both sing sweetly and sigh bitterly.