Monday, June 21, 2004

FUN WITH BILL AND DAN. So there he was, in all his shining, frustrating glory - Bill Clinton, one on one with Dan Rather, on 60 Minutes. The interview was fascinating to those of us who find Clinton himself fascinating, but depressingly short on substance. On CNN's Reliable Sources yesterday, Howard Kurtz told Rather, "You've covered a lot of ground in this interview, from the economy to Kosovo, but inevitably you came to Monica Lewinsky."

Well, maybe. But, in watching it, it seemed to me that nearly the entire interview was taken up with Lewinsky and a few other personal matters, punctuated mainly by Clinton's explanation of how he warded off a kiss from Yasser Arafat at that momentous outdoor news conference with Yitzhak Rabin. Clinton did a pretty good Rabin imitation, too.

Clinton's fault, or Rather's? It's hard to say, since we can't see the outtakes. Rather told Kurtz that what we saw last night was culled from four hours' worth of interviews, so maybe the more serious stuff was left on the cutting-room floor. Still, Clinton is well known for his eagerness to please, and I'm sure he realizes that his tawdry personal life will sell far more books than a recitation of how he managed to balance the budget.

Among the oddities of the book world's blockbuster mentality is that a phenomenon like Clinton's My Life starts to seem old even before anyone has had a chance to read it. At 957 pages, the book is going to feel like a project to those who actually determine to read the thing. The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani, obviously a faster reader than Media Log, has already whipped through her advance copy and pronounced it to be a mess:

The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull - the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.

Ooh, I can't wait! Meanwhile, remember, the thing won't even be available to the rest of us until Tuesday.

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