Vanessa V. Friedman
June 10, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Current Status
In Season
Peggy Noonan
Politics and Current Events, Biography

We gave it an A-

There has always been something a little unsettling about Peggy Noonan. As a presidential speechwriter and a single mother, she is a kind of feminist beacon, but she is a very conservative feminist beacon and — as the author of Bush’s “kinder, gentler” speeches and Reagan’s “history is a river” — a large part of the reason America chose Republican rule in the ’80s. Noonan left Washington when Bush became chief and, with her young son, moved to New York; her years there are the subject of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness — which might be more accurately (if less wittily) titled My Life in New York and What I Think About It, Politics and My Experiences, and the Pursuit of Religion. It’s a strange book. It’s sort of like sitting down with someone and free-associating for a couple of hours, which means that it is an easy, chatty book, and a very personal book, and an admittedly biased book, and, at times, a totally wacky book, full of unsupported assertions (“Young black men will save our country. I’m not sure completely what I mean by this…”). There are dozens of tantalizing, gossipy tidbits sprinkled throughout the pages, throwaway stories like the one about Dennis Thatcher always attending his wife’s speeches and loudly shouting “Hear! Hear!” when he believed the audience should applaud. There is some well-informed political commentary and an analysis of the present administration (Noonan is convinced we are in for a string of one-term presidencies). No matter what your politics, you end up liking her because Noonan is a beautiful, unembarrassed writer, and extremely smart. The Clinton White House should pull another Gergen, and get her back. A-

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