Clinton tell-all reveals as much about memoir as it does about the candidate

Perhaps my timing could be better, but on the other hand, who cares? Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure, but let’s leave debates about Benghazi and her use of a private email server to others.

Truth about HillaryIn today’s blog, let’s dissect her personal life and how she writes about it with a review of The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President by Edward Klein.

I found it on a bookshelf in a used bookstore not long ago and plunked down $7 for this 2005 biography because Clinton herself hadn’t answered my questions when I read her Living History autobiography some years ago.

Here’s what hooked me: The book jacket promised to reveal all kinds of “shocking new accounts” assessing Clinton’s “true character behind the mask” about all kinds of subjects political and personal including “what she really knew early on about Monica Lewinsky and hid from the country.”

You see, as a woman who was cheated on by a husband who sought after much younger women (see my memoir The Percussionist’s Wife for all the sordid details), I felt like I shared some secrets with Hillary Clinton.

Author Klein’s book rid me of this sense of sympathy. According to him, Clinton was well aware of her husband’s proclivities and generally tolerated them because she was interested in something other than his loyalty: The power his position represented.

Full disclosure: I got my answers in the first 189 pages so I didn’t finish the last quarter of the book, which ends, I found, with a quote from former president Richard Nixon: “Hillary inspires fear!” I don’t want to debate whether Klein is accurate in his portrayal of Clinton. He may be right or he may not be. And what she knew about her husband’s affairs may or may not color your opinion of how she would run the country.

What I find really interesting is why Clinton is so tight-lipped about Monica Lewinsky. It’s not that I disliked her Living History, it’s just that it was more about policy than about the personal, which is what I find so interesting about good memoir. Memoir is the place where you are allowed all the space you need to lay out your emotional perspective, and she didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. I got more of that personal flavor in Klein’s book (and appreciated it) than in anything I’ve ever heard from Clinton.

So the lesson I learned here isn’t about policy or about Clinton or the presidential race. It’s about memoir. Authentic revelation is the most valuable currency in good a good life story.