A Good Life

Bradlee, Ben. A Good Life: Newpapering and Other Adventures. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

To read A Good Life: Newpapering and Other Adventures is like sitting down with Mr. Bradlee and having a cup of coffee and a glazed doughnut. Easy. Warm. Inviting. And, depending on how sticky the doughnut (or Bradlee’s situation) potentially very funny. I imagine sitting in a chair that is overly comfortable and subsequently difficult to get out of. He unfolds his life with in twinkle in his eye and you can tell he looks back on his experiences with warmth and humor. Speaking of unfolding his life, one of the elements of Bradlee’s biography that I appreciated the most was the fact he did not go too far back into his family’s genealogy. I did not need to know where his great-great-great-great grandparents came from to appreciate Bradlee’s own beginnings. Before you are even 100 pages into the story, Bradlee is twenty years old, married and in the Navy (in fact, his wedding and entry into the Navy happened on the very same day). He moves quickly through his rise in journalism and subsequent employment with Newsweek & the Washington Post. Just as decisively he describes his marriages, first to Jean Salton, then to Tony Pinchot and finally, Sally Quinn. Probably one of the more intriguing sections of A Good Life wasn’t Watergate as you might expect, but rather Bradlee’s time with John F. Kennedy as friend and reporter before and during Kennedy’s Presidential career. [As an aside, I didn’t make the connection that it was Bradlee’s sister-in-law who was rumored to have had an affair with the President. (Rumor has it she was murdered to cover up the scandal.)] I don’t have Conversations with Kennedy on my list, but I wish I did. If it’s anything like Good Life, I’m sure it’s an interesting read.
But, back to the review. As expected, Bradlee spends a great deal of time talking about President Nixon, Watergate and the work that went into uncovering the lies. This is where Bradlee slows history down and works through the details methodically. But, he also shares some other not-so-crowning Post moments again, there is that honesty about all he reveals.

Quotes I loved: “The prunes were on the menu because my mother was preoccupied by our bowel movements” (p 24), “…loved the camaraderie, even if the odd asshole reared his ugly head every so often” (p 76), and “I didn’t just unclutter my mind. I emptied it, and found peace” (p 394).

Reason read: February is scholastic journalism month.

Author fact(s): This first one is more about the Bradlee men than author Ben – 51 Bradlees, starting in 1795, went to Harvard. Impressive. The second fact is that Ben Bradlee died at the age of 93 just a few short months ago (October 2014).

Book trivia: Note to self (and Pearl): This would have been a good book to read along side Katherine Graham’s Personal History. They go hand in hand.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Fourth Estate” (p 93).

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