She writes candidly about family—her mother was a “fanatical homemaker” with hair that appeared to be colored using shoe polish, her father a saint with an “easygoing, willing presence.” Carlson’s biggest complaint is that they didn’t subscribe to the New Yorker.
The steadfast values evident in her writing were propelled by youthful experiences—chiefly, standing up for her younger brother, who suffered from brain damage. Since childhood, Carlson has kept a list of “People Who Must Be Stopped.” Back then it included kids who didn’t play fair; more recent additions are the murdering Menendez brothers and Martha Stewart.
In one section, Carlson discusses how George W. Bush demonstrates that anyone can grow up to be president: “A president is elected partly on intangibles. Does he share my values? Of less concern is whether he knows which countries are a part of NATO or how to pronounce the names of Middle Eastern emirs. . . .” She feels he’s come a long way from his frat-boy days and redeemed himself after 9/11.
Carlson is a member of Washington’s elite, and the proof is in the book’s minutiae: She scooped ice cream in her kitchen with Katharine Graham; pundit Chris Matthews sang at her daughter’s wedding. Such details are scattered through the book, but without an air of superiority. Witty, intelligent, and a pleasure to read, Carlson has learned a lot from Washington. We can learn a lot from her.