A pile of journalist and editor types plus a gaggle of politicos gathered late Sunday afternoon to hear LA Times’ columnist/editor-at-large Jim Newton talk about his new biography, Eisenhower: The White House Years. The lit party was thrown by longtime Newton friends, former LA Times reporter (now UC Irvine law and literary journalism prof) Henry Weinstein and his wife, author and former Times staffer, Laurie Becklund.
There was a big LA Times crowd—present and former—including Steve Lopez, Barry Sieigel and wife Marti Devore, Lorenza Munoz, Times legal counsel, Karlene Goller, and more (plus a few non-LA Times journos like….well…me).
The politicos who chatted and sipped wine in the name of literature included Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky,, along with former LA Mayor Richard Riordan and right-now LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Antonio came late and had another event scheduled afterward so couldn’t stay too long, said his young and smart-seeming aide. But the rest of the political types were there early, and showed no signs of restlessness by the time I left.
Newton is a very good writer in general and is deeply enamored with the process of—as Weinstein put it when he introduced him—”peeling the onion” whenever he focuses his attention on a problem, question or, as in this case, the life of a U.S. president.
I’m on a fiction kick and thus I can’t tell you how much I wasn’t interested in reading a book about a former president right now, but after Newton read from his book that was released at the beginning of this month, I suddenly became convinced that Eisenhower was precisely the guy whose life I wanted to examine, forthwith.
There are many connections that make his life relevant to the moment. For example, he was truly a consensus president, a goal which Obama repeatedly aspires to achieve, but rarely reaches, even briefly. As commander-in-chief, Ike faced a list of impressively huge temptations to take Americans into battle. But, unlike our last four presidents, he avoided all of them. (Newton noted that one single American service person was killed in Ike’s two terms as president.) And there’re lots more.
Bottom line…if you’re a biography fan, take a look at Jim Newton’s new Eisenhower book. See if it calls to you.
Surprisingly, I find it calls to me.
PS: Not surprisingly, the subject of Sheriff Baca and the jails scandal surfaced in several conversations during the afternoon. More on that tomorrow—plus news of another very different LA literary event.
PPS: APOLOGIES TO SEVERAL DEAR FRIENDS FOR THE TYPOS IN THE EARLIER VERSION OF THIS STORY.