Monday, September 08, 2008

Five best: books about presidential administrations

Fred Siegel, a contributing editor of The City Journal and professor at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, named a five best list of books about presidential administrations for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
Memories of the Ford Administration
by John Updike
Knopf, 1992

Never mind the title of this John Updike novel: The presidential administration that he is interested in is that of James Buchanan, from 1857 to 1861, not Gerald Ford's in the 1970s. Updike's protagonist, historian Alfred Clayton, is working on a Buchanan biography when he is asked by an organization of historians for his thoughts about the Ford years. Clayton begins musing on his crumbling personal life during that time -- and he considers the parallels between his failing marriage and Buchanan's inability, as a natural compromiser, to preserve the Union on the eve of civil war. Buchanan is perhaps best known as one of America's worst presidents, but Updike presents a sympathetic portrait of a middling man swallowed up by the passions that surround him.
Read about another title on Siegel's list.

--Marshal Zeringue