I guess you could call this a gift book, something you might pick up on the way to a birthday party for someone you don’t know very well. The word “anthology” seems too grandiose for this collection of vignettes and often rambling—though mostly short—memories of childhood pastimes. The authors are no doubt friends or friends-of-friends of the editor, a DC public-relations executive and Hillary Clinton’s former deputy director of communications in the White House.
Both Clintons make appearances—Bill in a reminiscence about made-up games with an Arkansas friend, Hillary in an impossibly rosy look back at her childhood outside Chicago called (what else?) “An Idyllic Childhood.” Both pieces have a slightly refrigerated, staff-assisted feel, but at least Bill’s has a guileless charm appropriate to the scenes he describes. Hillary can’t resist, at the last minute, turning her essay into a speech about the otherwise worthy goal of regaining “the joy and experience of free play and neighborhood games that were taken for granted growing up in my generation.”
Fellow contributors—many with Washington ties—include Post reporter David Maraniss, novelists David Baldacci and Susan Richards Shreve, poet E. Ethelbert Miller, and former Clintonite George Stephanopoulos. Too bad so many of the stories are bland. An exception is by local writer Lisa Page, who, in her delightful “Alley Cats,” doesn’t just recollect but actually uses her words to recapture the rhythm, fun, and surprise of childhood play.
Steven A. Cohen
Simon & Schuster