PERSONAL HISTORY by Katharine Graham


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 Gracious, often touchingly ingenuous, at once panoramic and particular, Graham's autobiography absorbingly reconstructs her life of worldly privilege and affective deprivation as the daughter of one formidable man and the wife and widow of another, then chronicles her own rise to the challenges of captaining the Washington Post. Katharine Meyer--her blue blood diluted only slightly by her father's Jewish roots, her development stunted severely by a self- aggrandizing mother--survived the conventions and emotional isolation of a richly endowed girlhood to marry the irreverent Phil Graham, whom she celebrates for liberating her from her unspontaneous self and the weight of her family mythology. It was he who ``put the fix in our lives'' . . . and, shatteringly, put a gun to his head after escalating manic-depression climaxed in his running off with the latest of his unsuspected paramours, leaving Katharine to abject devastation. That she was utterly bereft of social confidence by middle age seems to have been both cause and effect of Phil's defection; nonetheless, she determined to go to work to preserve for her children the Post, which Phil had taken over from her father. (With characteristic modesty and felicity, she extols the ``originality'' of the friend who planted the idea that she could run it.) But also, she quite fell in love with the paper and the burgeoning corporate enterprise. It was an excruciating coming-of-age, because of her constant self-doubt and frankly poor management and because of the magnitude of the events played out on her watch--each revisited in reflective, defensive, parochial detail: the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the pressmen's strike, the company's going public, major acquisition and personnel decisions. Graham's book, like her life, is harnessed to history, political and journalistic (even her best friends were famous). Her myriad stories--discreet to a fault--humanize a whole pantheon of Personalities. Her personal drama, however, upstages the rest. (24 pages photos, not seen) (First printing of 200,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1997
ISBN: 0-394-58585-2
Page count: 688pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997


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