BROWN by Orville Schell


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Schell spent some two years following ""this unusual candidate, who, like a soft drink, has dubbed himself the 'Uncandidate.'"" True to the spirit of Brown's much-touted ""rather spontaneous, existential approach"" to government, Schell snaps the Governor in a variety of Instamatic poses: campaigning in Maryland, jawing in a Chinese restaurant, introducing the singer Jackson Browne at a Save the Whales rally in Japan. They reveal oddly little, most clearly that Brown does not wish to be pinned down. He answers one question with another; he ignores the schedules his aides plan for him; he winds philosophical conundrums around his favorite themes--Small Is Beautiful, the Spaceship Earth, the Government Can't Do Everything. Schell finds that Brown's staffers and the Sacramento press crew see him as 100 percent politician, a very sharp character whose potential can be gauged by his incoming mail--heavier than that of any previous incumbent. He is a phenomenon, Schell agrees, one who can retreat to a monastery or pal around with trendy stars like Linda Ronstadt. But is the 38-year-old Governor of California really all things to all men: philosopher, pragmatist, media manipulator, visionary, pundit, enfant terrible? Schell's answer seems to be a qualified yes. Throughout there is a feeling that Jerry is playing politics, that tomorrow he could get bored and take up mountain climbing or filmmaking. Curiously, the book bears a striking resemblance to J. Lorenz's Jerry Brown (p. 233), the wry notes of a disillusioned ex-staffer, except that unlike Lorenz, Schell has no personal ax to grind. Withal, the essential Jerry Brown--if indeed there is one-seems to elude him. There is of course the possibility that the Jerry Brown game can be played only with mirrors. Like its subject--a hyperactive, intriguing, and frustrating book.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1978
Publisher: Random House