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Thursday, November 15, 2012

DC Insiders Raved Over Broadwell-Petraeus Book--But Not Real Readers

Back in the day, the late, great satire magazine “Spy” had a hilarious standing feature, “Logrolling in Our Time,” which needled famous authors for scratching each others’ backs with irrationally effusive blurbs -- “riveting,” masterful,” “epic,” “moving” and the like.

Of course, helping a friend cannot be said to be anything but honorable, especially in such a wretched industry as publishing. But the great unwashed who actually buy a book based on the raves of the famous might understandably be upset when it turns out to be not so great after all.

Such, evidently, is the case with Paula Broadwell’s now infamous biography of her erstwhile FWB David Petraeus, “All In.”

Some big names bellied up to blurb the book in advance.

NBC legend Tom Brokaw, author of "The Greatest Generation" (no less), called it “riveting ... instructive and inspiring." Not to be outdone, recovering serial plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin  blurbed the book as “majestic...superb...intimate...fascinating...an elegant study of leadership."

"Teddy Roosevelt,” chimed in former Nixon-Ford-Bush-Clinton utility man-turned CNN pundit David Gergen,  “once said that it is not enough to be intelligent” (and he should know).  He called Paula Broadwell a “soldier-scholar in her own right,” who “tells the Petraeus story masterfully,” blah, blah, blah, “help(ing) us understand how Petraeus has become the living legend he is."

And so on and on. In words he surely wished he could take back, the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon called Broadwell  “a remarkable former Army officer who spent months on the ground in Afghanistan herself.”

Haw! But O’Hanlon, a Petraeus classmate at Princeton, left himself some wiggle room  on  Broadwell’s portrait of his friend, calling it only “the best book yet on General David Petraeus...” Lest the general frown, however, he called Petraeus “the finest general of this era and one of the greatest in modern American history.”

TIME magazine's estimable Mark Thompson, author of the wonderful “Battleland” blog,  was first to note the curious changing views of “All In” over the months since its publication last January, from the “uniformly glowing” pre-publication blurbs and “initial flurry of outside reviews” by military officers to “the real thing” -- ordinary reader reactions.

“After a couple of months, the reviews from late March to when the scandal broke last Friday are decidedly mixed. These most likely are the ones written and submitted by real readers, who actually bought the book – perhaps persuaded by those two groups of critics cited above — and read it,” Thompson writes.

You can review the rest of Thompson's  “highly original and vastly entertaining work” here.

That's what I call it. And I mean it. Then again, Mark's a friend of mine.