1. What are you currently reading? The Lonely Lady of San Clemente: The Pat Nixon Story by Lester David. I am fascinated by our nation's First Ladies. It's a high-profile, crappy job. There's no job description, and yet everyone is always watching and prepared to tell you how you're doing your completely undefined job completely wrong. It's through that prism that I'm reading, and enjoying, this biography of Pat Nixon.
This book was published shortly after her stroke, when she began living as a recluse because she didn't want the public to see her less than 100%. That's what I'm learning from this volume: she expected 100% of herself at all times. No half measures. She had a tough row to hoe and as I read her story, I don't doubt that she did her level best, every day.
Also, it's a used book. I love used books. I picked it up at my local library book sale. It had been removed from the shelf of another library -- can't tell you where, only glue marks remain from the old-school checkout pocket -- back in 1988. How many people have held this book? How did it end up in my town? Ah, the romance of books!
2. What did you recently finish reading? Conversations with Kennedy by Ben Bradlee. If you have seen The Post or All The President's Men, you know Ben Bradlee. But before he became editor of The Washington Post, he was the Washington Bureau Chief for Newsweek. He and his wife lived next door to Senator John Kennedy and Jackie. The twp couples became fast friends and their friendship did not end when JFK moved into the White House. This is a very personal memoir of their time together -- in Georgetown, in The White House, at Hyannis Port and Camp David and Newport.
It's intimate, at times very funny, and surprisingly sweet. And so much fun. These two couples gossiped, sailed, watched movies and enjoyed long Sunday brunches. And State Dinners in the East Room of the White House and golf games with celebrities. They were having the time of their lives, until it all came to a tragic halt on 11/22/63.
As much as I enjoyed the book, I was disturbed by it. Ben Bradlee could not possibly have been a responsible reporter, covering Washington, while being what Jackie called "our best friend." Later in his life -- and as portrayed by Tom Hanks in The Post -- he admitted this.