The latest book to come out of the Clinton administration is by the First Lady herself. It contains advice on entertaining toddlers (with a sock) and how girls should dress (comfortably). PJ O'Rourke wonders whether Mrs Clinton is really such a nitwitby PJ O'Rourke / April 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in April 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
It takes a village to raise a child. The village is Washington. You are the child. There, I’ve spared you from reading the worst book to come out of the Clinton administration since- let’s be fair-the last one. Nearly everything about It Takes a Village is objectionable, from the title to the acknowledgments page, where Mrs Clinton fails to acknowledge that some poor journalism professor named Barbara Feinman did a lot of the work. Mrs Clinton thereby unwisely violates the first rule of literary collaboration: blame the co-author. And let us avert our eyes from the Kim Il-Sung-type dust jacket photograph showing Mrs Clinton surrounded by joyous-youth-of-many-nations.
The writing style is that familiar modern one so often adopted by harried public figures speaking into a tape recorder. The narrative voice is, I believe, intended to be that of an old family friend-an old family friend who is, perhaps, showing the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease:
On summer nights, our parents sat together in one another’s yards or on porches, chatting while the kids played. Sometimes a few of the fathers dressed up in sheets and told us ghost stories. We marched with our Scout troops or school groups or rode bikes in holiday parades through our town’s small downtown, to a park where all the kids were given Popsicles.
Elsewhere the tone is xeroxed family newsletter, the kind enclosed in a Christmas card from people you hardly know:
One memorable night, Chelsea wanted us to go
buy a coconut… We walked to our neighbourhood store, brought the coconut home, and tried to open it, even pounding on it with a hammer, to no avail. Finally we went out to the parking lot of the governor’s mansion, where we took turns throwing it on the ground until it cracked. The guards could not figure out what we were up to, and we laughed for hours afterwards.
Hours? However that may be, let us understand that we have here a Christmas card with ideas, “a reflection of my continuing meditation on children,” as Mrs Clinton puts it. And we need only turn to the contents page to reap the benefits of her many lonely hours spent in contemplation of puerile ontology: “Kids Don’t Come with Instructions,” “Child Care Is Not a Spectator Sport,” “Children Are Citizens Too.”