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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dish, Debunking, Late Delight

Journalist Bob Woodward long ago shed the role of crusading outsider he won when, along with Carl Bernstein, he exposed the "cancer on the presidency" of Richard Nixon in "All the President's Men." He has since become a savvy inside player of big-time politics, using his leverage as a power at The Washington Post to gain extraordinary access to the inner recesses of government. His books are no longer meant to "expose" much of anything -- except perhaps the political agendas of those who feed him material, and the personal animus he feels toward those who don't.


His latest book, The Choice (Simon and Schuster, $26) is much the same, dishing the backstage dirt of the early Clinton and Dole campaigns. Dole, no fool, gave 12 hours of interviews to the heavy hitter, while Clinton sent in a series of surrogates to coordinate his spin.


Woodward, a lifelong Republican, is rather predictable in his leanings here, but as a journalist, he makes a good fiction writer, especially with his penchant for reporting the inner thoughts of his subjects and dramatizing scenes he's never witnessed.





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The biographical debunking of the great goes on apace. The latest entry in the feet-of-clay gallery is Jung: A Biography, by Frank McLynn (Bantam Press, ?25 or about $38).


Lynn reveals the Freudian apostate and New Age founding father to be a lecher of astounding proportions, a conniving and deadly professional in-fighter, and, most shamefully, an active, if temporary, Nazi sympathizer, who somehow saw in Hitler's boorish thugs the embodiment of some murky Germanic archetype battling an "unhealthy" Jewish mythos on the plane of the unconscious.


His contemporary, the great novelist Thomas Mann, thought Jung a mediocre power-seeker with a second-rate mind; but Sigmund Freud mourned him always as the son and heir he lost.


McLynn is balanced in his account, however, giving ample room for Jung's defenders to give their perspective on the many murky matters of his past.





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In Ants on the Melon, by Virginia Hamilton Adair (Random House, $21), a powerful new poet has made her debut -- at the age of 83. Adair has been writing poetry her entire life, not out of "professionalism" (although her poems show a thorough knowledge of craft), but for the pleasure it gives her and the measure of understanding it brings.


Critic A. Alvarez calls her "a traditionalist -- if that is what striving for excellence as something beyond fashion and personality means -- but her casual, witty, powerful voice is wholly her own." Among other subjects, Adair writes knowingly of her rich and complex family life, and of the inexplicable suicide of her husband after 35 apparently happy years of marriage. The "clarity and irony" of her verse is likened to the great Central European masters, like Zbigniew Herbert.





Compiled from The Independent, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Review of Books.