Former U.S. Senator, Actor Fred Thompson Dies

Fred Thompson

(Reuters) – Fred Thompson, a former Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee who also ran for president and was a longtime film and television actor, has died at age 73, the Nashville Tennessean reported on Sunday.

The Trouble With Novels
That Bring the News

Jonathan Franzen

To no one’s surprise, Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, was published this fall to critical acclaim and commercial success. Like his last two novels, Purity features a dysfunctional family. A young woman, Purity “Pip” Tyler, saddled with $130,000 in student debt and a reclusive, emotionally dependent mother, is trying to discover the identity of her father, whom she hopes will help her out. It’s more complicated than that, of course. The novel actually features three dysfunctional families whose fates are implausibly intertwined. Franzen’s tale, as you might expect, is freighted with social commentary.

My Darling Clementine

Though there have been numerous multi-volume biographies of Winston Churchill, and whole libraries written about aspects of his career, the lens has much less frequently been focused on his wife, Clementine, despite her great influence on her husband and involvement in his political career.

Sonia Purnell, the author of the new biography on Mrs. Churchill, Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, points out the strangeness of her subject matter’s neglect, given the unique role that Clementine played in British government.

The Mystery of Ronald Reagan

Toward the end of Thomas Mallon’s Finale, Nancy Reagan, standing alone beneath a star-filled sky in the California desert, muses that “she didn’t know who [Ronald Reagan] was, and she never had.” The real-life Nancy once wrote something similar: “Although he loves people, [Ronald] often seems remote, and he doesn’t let anybody get too close. There’s a wall around him. He lets me come closer than anyone else, but there are times when even I feel that barrier.”

The former first lady wasn’t alone in this observation. It has become so commonplace in accounts of the man’s life that it now threatens to detract from a clear understanding of Reagan’s achievement. Now, if journalists and historians can’t successfully reveal the inner Reagan, what better tool than the historical novel?