Standing Firm, by Dan Quayle
Ever since the basketball star Charles Barkley admitted in a press conference that he had not read his own just-published autobiography, reviewers have been well-advised to approach celebrity memoirs with care. How thoroughly, nowadays, can you judge a man by the book that bears his name? It is taken for granted that no politician (or athlete, or actor, or businessman) would suffer the indignity of staring at a blank computer screen, sweating out the inspiration to tell his own story with sufficient eloquence and candor. No, the self-respecting memoirist today hires a professional to become inspired for him.
This much is assumed, and generally goes unremarked. How closely the resulting book reflects its subject is a dicier question. Are the tone and mood the subject’s or the ghostwriter’s? Who thought up the funny lines; how genuine is the ardor; are the tears his or a crocodile’s? And to whose sloppiness do we ascribe the inevitable solecisms and typos and errors of fact? Through these deep waters the judicious reviewer moves cautiously, and particularly so in the case of former Vice President Dan Quayle, whose own memoir has just been published.
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