Monday, November 12, 2012

Don’t Boink the Biographer

You’ve already heard the story: last Friday, four-star U.S. general and Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus resigned when it was revealed he’d had an affair with Paula Broadwell. Broadwell is the author of All In (Penguin), a biography of Petraeus published early this year.

Looking back on The Washington Post’s January 2012 review of All In makes one think reviewer Thomas J. Barfield had either a crystal ball or some inside knowledge:
Embedded in Petraeus’s Kabul headquarters, Broadwell was uniquely positioned to describe its byzantine political and military environment. While her book is long on detail, it is short on unexpected insights or unvarnished opinions. It is as if Petraeus could instantly visualize how whatever he said would appear in print and self-censor accordingly. Personal interviews run in lock step with the general’s public policy statements, congressional testimony and news releases, which are also quoted at length. 
Ten months later, it’s easy to read that review and say, “Of course.” But, really, there’s more to this story. A lot more. Some of it, I predict, yet to come out. But read even the story as it exists too closely and you end up wanting a shower.

At present, the coverage is deep and it’s everywhere. We won’t add to it here: there’s no need. Except to contribute one obvious (book-related) observation: Don’t boink the biographer. It’s just never a good idea.

If, somehow, you have missed the story, there’s more here and here and here.


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