Barack Obama started his presidency the day in 2008 when his Republican rival, John McCain ‘suspended’ his campaign (such a drama queen, I’ve heard more convincing dialogue from Palmer on All My Children) to save Wall Street. McCain was too stupid to realize he was an idiot, as Obama took the meeting away not only from him, but Bush and the leaders of both parties. Obama was leading before he was the leader.

During the Bush – Obama transition, an observer said (its) “begun with Kumbaya and ended with the music from Jaws.” This theme is the refrain in The Promise by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter‘s play by play of the first year of the Obama administration.

Alter is aware of all of the lies being floated about Obama the man and his 1st year in office and he wants some of the record corrected. The telling subtext of The Promise is the ugly portrait of those who want, at all costs, to make Obama fail.

The book’s very insider accounts of already famous incidents connected to the Obama presidency are fully chronicled. Ted Kennedy‘s meltdown with Bill Clinton over Ted’s crucial endorsement of Obama. Candidate Obama taking advantage of McCain’s desperate campaign tactics. Rahm Emanuel dealing straight with the radioactive hack Rod Blagojevich, who tried to sell Obama’s Illinois Senate seat- just to name a few.

New details about Obama’s reacting with ’cold fury’ over conflicting statements by Gen. Stanley McCyrstal, Adm. Mike Mullen and David Petrarus over leaks and war strategy in Afghanistan. Alter reports that he dressed them down in the Oval Office in a manner between a President and the military not seen since Truman sacked MacArthur.

Rahm ‘begging’ the President not to take on health care reform in the first year because of the political cost to the president. Obama knowing early on that his political capital was draining fast as he pushed for more and more legislative measures to save the economy from collapse while pushing his own agendas.

This is a profile of Obama’s explosive dominance on the political landscape and the President’s mostly Zen master approach to solving the country‘s problems.

Alter is an authoritative political writer, and sometimes too meticulous, sometimes weighing down the book. He itemizes and wonks through seemingly every thought Obama had as he was putting his cabinet together. An appendixes for this detailing would serve the book better.

The story really picks up steam when he dissects what went into convincing his recent rival, Hillary Clinton, to accept his offer to be Secretary of State.

Under direct attack by obstructionist Republicans fanning the politics around the financial disaster and the cultural backlash of health care legislation show Obama’s MO of cool under fire on the front political line.


The University of Wisconsin Press has just released Jerry Rosco’s fine 2002 biography Glenway Wescott Personally, in paperback. Notable because at a friendlier price it should be on every gay shelf. Wescott is an almost forgotten literary figure.

Born in 1907 he came from the most modest of upbringing in Wisconsin to emerge as the most promising young voice of his generation. The public and critical reception to Wescott indicated that he was to be an illustrious man of American letters. His first books, Goodbye, Wisconsin and The Grandmothers and volumes of poetry were lavished with praise and he was famous before he was 30.

As a young man, he was out and unapologetic, in life and representing the hidden gay world in his writing. Fitzgerald noted his talents right away, Hemingway indicated jealousy and even slung some homophobic slurs his way in print. But Wescott could not have cared less as he made his way into the worlds of literature and art in New York and Europe.

He was already in love with Monroe Wheeler, who started his own publishing company and eventually became curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Paris, the couple became intimates of Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau (and his lovers, the good ones using prime opium, the bad ones using street opium, we come to know). Rosco paints vivid background of international gay life populated with an a-list of artists and writers.

Wescott’s contemporaries (and Harper and Brothers) pressed him to write more, but Wescott abandoned very ambitious ‘great American novels’ hopes and published shorter form work and becoming an essayist of note. His novella The Pilgrim Hawk was and is considered a modern masterpiece.

Glenway and Monroe were now part of the lofty worlds of Christopher Isherwood, W.H. Auden and painter Paul Cadmus, now their very close friend. The couple also had an ongoing ménage with photographer George Platt Lynes and the three shared a Manhattan apartment pre- war at a pivotal time in the New York when Europeans artists were getting out of fascist Europe.


Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open has sparked scorn from fellow athletes because of the Wimbledon champ’s admitted loathing of the game, his crystal meth use, and the fact that his mullet was fake. The crystal cover close-up is tres Scavulo.

But the real headline from Open is Agassi’s prose prowess, crafted by J. R. Moehringer, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Tender Bar. Whoever is serving the literary style in the book, it is a manic page-turner.

The opening passages present a rakish play-by-play of Agassi’s nail-biter at the 2006 U.S. Open; the scene reminds you of the chariot race in Ben-Hur. He then exorcises all of his demons that got him to this point. Agassi’s lost youth saga is the stuff of rebellious American anti-heroes.

High-stakes tennis aside, suddenly the reader is up close and personal in Agassi’s lifelong dramas that have crushed his emotions as hard as his sport is crushing his body. The book features lots of male locker-room bonding with the tennis boys. For celebheads – Babs comes off classy, Brooke self-absorbed (although she did get him to shave his head) and Steffi Graf, who he married and with whom he is raising two children, an earthly goddess. 

Andre is not chasing grand slams anymore since he won all four and Olympic gold.  The 9th grade dropout (his dad wanted him to go pro) founded the Agassi Prep school in Vegas, it is obvious this book is intended to be more than a sports celeb confessional.

For net fans, Agassi writes tennis like a ’40s fight reporter, you can smell the success and failure from inside the arena.