Synopses & Reviews
President Bill Clinton's My Life
is the strikingly candid portrait of a global leader who decided early in life to devote his intellectual and political gifts, and his extraordinary capacity for hard work, to serving the public.
It shows us the progress of a remarkable American, who, through his own enormous energies and efforts, made the unlikely journey from Hope, Arkansas, to the White House a journey fueled by an impassioned interest in the political process which manifested itself at every stage of his life: in college, working as an intern for Senator William Fulbright; at Oxford, becoming part of the Vietnam War protest movement; at Yale Law School, campaigning on the grassroots level for Democratic candidates; back in Arkansas, running for Congress, attorney general, and governor.
We see his career shaped by his resolute determination to improve the life of his fellow citizens, an unfaltering commitment to civil rights, and an exceptional understanding of the practicalities of political life.
We come to understand the emotional pressures of his youth born after his father's death; caught in the dysfunctional relationship between his feisty, nurturing mother and his abusive stepfather, whom he never ceased to love and whose name he took; drawn to the brilliant, compelling Hillary Rodham, whom he was determined to marry; passionately devoted, from her infancy, to their daughter, Chelsea, and to the entire experience of fatherhood; slowly and painfully beginning to comprehend how his early denial of pain led him at times into damaging patterns of behavior.
President Clinton's book is also the fullest, most concretely detailed, most nuanced account of a presidency ever written encompassing not only the high points and crises but the way the presidency actually works: the day-to-day bombardment of problems, personalities, conflicts, setbacks, achievements.
It is a testament to the positive impact on America and on the world of his work and his ideals.
It is the gripping account of a president under concerted and unrelenting assault orchestrated by his enemies on the Far Right, and how he survived and prevailed.
It is a treasury of moments caught alive, among them:
- The ten-year-old boy watching the national political conventions on his family's new (and first) television set.
- The young candidate looking for votes in the Arkansas hills and the local seer who tells him, "Anybody who would campaign at a beer joint in Joiner at midnight on Saturday night deserves to carry one box....You'll win here. But it'll be the only damn place you win in this county." (He was right on both counts.)
- The roller-coaster ride of the 1992 campaign.
- The extraordinarily frank exchanges with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.
- The delicate manipulation needed to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands for the camera while keeping Arafat from kissing Rabin.
- The cost, both public and private, of the scandal that threatened the presidency.
Here is the life of a great national and international figure, revealed with all his talents and contradictions, told openly, directly, in his own completely recognizable voice. A unique book by a unique American.
"My Life is, by a generous measure, the richest American presidential autobiography no other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States for eight years." Larry McMurtry, The New York Times
"Throughout its leisurely 957 pages...every facet of Clinton's complex, nuanced and sometimes maddening personality is on display." Newsweek
"Part of the problem is that My Life is relentlessly chronological....It's like being locked in a small room with a very gregarious man who insists on reading his entire appointment book, day by day, beginning in 1946." Jerry Schwartz, The Associated Press
"[My Life] is as [Clinton's] presidency was at times fascinating, often rambling and always overshadowed by the demons which formed the character of the boy and the flaws of the man." Paul Reynolds, BBC News
"[T]here's a wonderful naturalness to Clinton's writing in My Life and enough insights into this puzzling man that it's well worth plunking down [the price of the book] for 957 pages of his almost-unfiltered musings." Marta Salij, Detroit Free Press
"My Life is not a great book. It's not even a good book, but like its author, it has its moments and flashes of insight. It is Clintonesque: frustrating and fascinating, more exhausting than exhaustive." Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"As political memoirs go, this one is reasonably well-written, and manages to strike a mostly agreeable balance between reportage and boasting, between analysis and self-justification....[A] voice that's bracing and comforting to hear..." Francine Prose, Newsday
"Like most celebrity biographies, this volume would be twice as good were it half as long....My Life is not, to be sure, a literary masterpiece in the same league as, say, the memoirs of Charles de Gaulle. But considering that we are currently graced with a president who has trouble putting together two consecutive unscripted grammatical sentences, Clinton's articulateness must count as an achievement." Ronald Steel, The New Republic
"[A] massive book, more than memoir, more than history. It is, with all due respect to the Pope, the journey of a soul, many-layered, complex, tantalizing....[The writing] rolls along, a hell of a good story...(Grade: A-)" Frank McCourt, Entertainment Weekly
"[T]he odds are overwhelming that My Life is destined to end up as a prominent but largely pristine totem on liberal America's bookshelves after its brief, proud season as a wrist-spraining fashion statement....Clinton's book was designed not so much to be read as to be an event's central prop; in more than one sense, we weren't really buying the story of his life. Rather, we were being offered a small chance to play spear carriers in an episode of it." Tom Carson, The Atlantic Monthly
"It's an almost voluptuous pleasure to read Clinton when he's recounting and analyzing a political race or a legislative battle, whether it's one of his own or somebody else's." The New Yorker
"Consistently fascinating." The Seattle Times
"Might just be the perfect representation of the man himself." The Plain Dealer
"He manages to create the distinct impression that he is sitting in the living room talking to the reader....Anyone who is geninely interested in American politics will find his insights and anecdotes fascinating....The book helps to elucidate the question of 'how he did it.'" Deseret Morning News
"Bill Clinton has written two books: a beguiling memoir of growing up in the South and becoming a young Arkansas politician, and a tedious account of being President of the United States....[T]he memoir bounces along nicely for several hundred pages, as Clinton goes to college, serves as a junior aide for J. William Fulbright's Senate office, takes up his Rhodes Scholarship, and works towards becoming Governor of Arkansas in 1979. Indeed, if these pages had been published as a separate book, many would think that Clinton has contributed a classic of Southern political memoir." Michael O'Brien, The Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire Times Literary Supplement review
The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir by President Clinton the top-selling presidential memoir of all time arrives in a two-volume mass market release. Concentrating on his early life, this first volume contains new photographs and new material by the author. My Life, Vol. 2: The Presidential Years will be available in July.
About the Author
Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas, three months after his father died in a traffic accident. When he was four years old, his mother wed Roger Clinton, of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Clinton was graduated from Georgetown University and in 1968 won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. He received a law degree from Yale University in 1973, and entered politics in Arkansas. Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976, and won the governorship in 1978. After losing a bid for a second term, he regained the office four years later, and served until he defeated incumbent George Bush and third party candidate Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential race.
During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare roles. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus.