Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Boring Nixon Book?

It’s a rare feat that I find a boring Nixon book – but find one I did. Although it's not completely boring. More on that later.

In this case, it’s David Frost’s “Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews,” in which British journalist Frost details the details surrounding his stellar interviews with former President Richard Nixon in the years after he resigned the presidency.

I’ve seen some of the interviews, and they’re a fascinating bit of history. The book, however, is on the dull side. It’s a good read for a Nixon nut like me, but if you’re looking for riveting storytelling, concentrate on the Frost/Nixon interviews on YouTube, skipping the Frost/Nixon film.

The dullness doesn’t come from the interviews themselves – Frost succeeded wildly in capturing Nixon the man more than any other contemporary journalist. The dullness, rather, comes from the nuts and bolts that went into setting up the interviews, finding sponsors, and other busywork that led up to the interviews themselves. It’s just not riveting storytelling. There’s far more drama in the interviews themselves – listening to Frost go on for pages about raising funds for the interviews lacks that drama.

There are a few good chuckles to be had, mostly at the expense of the breathless blurbs on the front and back of the book. Says King Features Syndicate: “The assorted and assembled clippings from the cutting room floor are far more intriguing than the television version!” Really? Did we read the same book? And the New York Times is even better: “An overwhelming look at the most historic media event of our time! Compelling . . . Dramatic . . . Excruciating!” All signs of a press world still reveling in rolling in the joint mud bog stirred up by the events of the time.

Now to the not-boring bit. Once Frost gets past the Watergate interview portion (again, much better as television than as a book) he delves into pseudopsychology of Nixon which, for better or worse, I think is fairly accurate. That portion of the book made up for the rest.

Review addenda here.

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