R.I.P. Joe McGinniss

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Mister Tee
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R.I.P. Joe McGinniss

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:22 pm

Someone ought to post something about Joe McGinniss, who had some less than stellar later years, but wrote a couple of very notable books.

First was The Selling of the President, which may have been the first political book of the modern age. Teddy White's Making of the President books had purported to be the inside story of campaigns, but McGinniss, with his young/counter-culture viewpoint, showed that White hadn't been cynical enough by half. His skeptical look at how the Nixon team had used advertising to push an unpopular candidate to the presidency may seem conventional wisdom now, but it was the first of its kind. Still a terrific read.

He wrote some other good books in the next decade -- including Going to Extremes, a solid work about life in Alaska. But Fatal Vision was a sensation -- one of the best true crime books ever, about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder case. Everyone I knew was reading this in 1983; it was also made into a top-rated miniseries.
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McGinniss also wrote two other crime books -- Cruel Doubt and Blind Faith -- that were quite good, though they paled next to Fatal Vision.

And then his career went downhill. MacDonald sued him for misleading h(letting McDonald think McGinniss would exonerate him, when the book did nothing of the kind), and got a settlement, if not a verdict. Janet Malcolm wrote that this "manipulation" of MacDonald was typical of all journalism, and marked McGinniss as a sleaze. Then McGinniss wrote a book about Ted Kennedy which was excoriated by critics. And, in his final years, he got publicity for buying the house next to Sarah Palin so as to write a book about her. Like everything else that gets near Sarah Palin, the project demeaned him as much as her.

So, he wasn't chic in his later years, and thus didn't get the send-off he deserved. In memory of his earlier books, I offer that salute.

Here's a professional recap:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/sty ... ooks-ever/

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