If you have time to read just one review of Kitty Kelley’s The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, make it Andrew Ferguson’s for Bloomberg News (thanks, National Review Online for the hat-tip). Better yet, don’t underwrite another giant fake rose for Kitty’s pantsuit collar by actually buying the book; read Andy instead. He deems Kitty’s book to be a species of “pathography,” a word coined by novelist Joyce Carol Oates to describe purported biographies that turn their subjects’ lives into a nonstop tableau of squalid and unspeakable events:
“Thus Kelley depicts the Bush family — like the Sinatras, Kennedys, Windsors, and other clans that have received the Kelley treatment — in a delirium of dysfunction, drunkenness, depression, dishonesty and (I’ve run out of ‘d’ words) serial adultery.”…
“Testimony from sources who have something unflattering to say, no matter how distant or unreliable they may be, is credulously repeated, sometimes in direct quotes that run for pages. More often than not these sources are unnamed. Yet even when they are identified, problems remain.
“Among her named sources are many of Bush’s political enemies — though they are never described as such. Kelley’s source for one particularly scurrilous allegation is, amazingly, the pornographer Larry Flynt. When Kelley writes about Bush’s National Guard service, she relies on a Texan named Bill Burkett. CBS News and Dan Rather relied on him for that, too, and now say he deliberately misled them….
“Positive information, on the other hand, is included rarely and grudgingly. The pathographer will always skirt her subjects’ substantial accomplishments in favor of an unseemly fascination for the private and unprovable.
“Just as she wrote a 600-page book about Sinatra and scarcely mentioned his singing — the only reason, after all, anyone would be interested in him — so she manages to chronicle the Bushes with almost no understanding of the political currents that shaped them.
“To take one example: Prescott Bush, the current president’s grandfather, was a large and consequential figure in the liberal Republicanism of the Eisenhower era. You’d never know it by Kelley, who tries to prove instead that he was an imperious drunk.”
Despite all this, Andy points out, Kitty’s book does contain a handful stories that actually flatter the Bushes–and since that’s not what Kitty wants do do, Andy concludes that the yarns must be true. Here’s one, summarized by Andy:
“Laura Welch, the future first lady, was still a mystery to the Bush family on the day she married George W. in 1978. The Bush matriarch, Prescott’s widow, tried to interrogate her after the ceremony.
“‘What do you do?’ the old lady asked her.
“‘I read,’ Laura replied.”
So much for Laura the Stepford Wife.