A Complicated Man

The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him

Michael Takiff

View Inside Price: $28.00


October 18, 2011
528 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
25 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300177688
Paper

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The biography of Bill Clinton as told by 169 of the friends, colleagues, and rivals who know him best

Though Bill Clinton has been out of office since 2001, public fascination with him continues unabated. Many books about Clinton have been published in recent years, but shockingly, no single-volume biography covers the full scope of Clinton’s life from the cradle to the present day, not even Clinton’s own account, My Life. More troubling still, books on Clinton have tended to be highly polarized, casting the former president in an overly positive or negative light.

In this, the first complete oral history of Clinton’s life, historian Michael Takiff presents the first truly balanced book on one of our nation’s most controversial and fascinating presidents. Through more than 150 chronologically arranged interviews with key figures including Bob Dole, James Carville, and Tom Brokaw, among many others, A Complicated Man goes far beyond the well-worn party-line territory to capture the larger-than-life essence of Clinton the man. With the tremendous attention given to the Lewinsky scandal, it is easy to overlook the president’s humble upbringing, as well as his many achievements at home and abroad: the longest economic boom in American history, a balanced budget, successful intervention in the Balkans, and a series of landmark, if controversial, free-trade agreements. Through the candid recollections of Takiff’s many subjects, A Complicated Man leaves no area unexplored, revealing the most complete and unexpected portrait of our forty-second president published to date.

Michael Takiff is an independent scholar and oral historian whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon. He is the author of Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War II and Vietnam.

"Photographs enhance this astonishing look at a very complicated man indeed. Even readers who have glutted themselves on other Clinton books will enjoy the intimate feel of this one."—Booklist, starred review

"A valuable document. . . [and] also timely. . . . [A Complicated Man] is fair and balanced. . . . When dealing with someone as inspiring and infuriating as the 42nd president, that is no small feat."—Christian Science Monitor

"This volume is an outstanding accomplishment. The Clinton that emerges is remarkably rich and three-dimensional: a protean and mercurial figure as likely to dazzle as he is to disappoint; his own worst enemy and his own best resource; a man of extraordinarily intense emotional need and extraordinarily impressive intellect and commitment. A historic contribution to the biographical record which will stand for generations."—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

"This book is perfectly titled. Bill Clinton was and is, indeed, 'a complicated man,' one of the three greatest natural politicians among twentieth-century presidents, along with FDR and LBJ, but also strangely flawed. These testimonies by people who knew him well throughout his life and career delve into both the strengths and weaknesses of this fascinating figure."—John Milton Cooper, author of The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt

"Packed with fascinating personal perspective and testimony, Michael Takiff's A Complicated Man wholly justifies its title. The book is far more than a kaleidoscopic oral biography of President Bill Clinton. Aspect by aspect, it guides us through the struggles of postmodern America, as the most ambitious baby boomer of his generation seeks to modernize the Democratic Party—and, as in a Greek drama, is fated to be destroyed. Veritably, an all-American saga, with a cast of thousands—favorable and unfavorable."—Nigel Hamilton, author of American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush

“This is an ambitious and impressive work. Takiff has taken on a daunting subject and done very well with it.”—Lewis L. Gould, University of Texas at Austin

"Takiff's excellent oral history . . . helps reveal the many sides of this controversial leader. . . . This lively first-person draft of history will grab and keep the attention of readers fascinated or infuriated by Clinton."—Library Journal

“There is a tradition of solid oral history books on Presidents and the Presidency, but nothing comes close to Michael Takiff’s A Complicated Man.  This is one of the best efforts on Clinton’s life in years, and it is the best oral history book ever written about a President of the United States.”—Anthony Bergen, Dead Presidents Blog

“What Takiff delivers is an astonishing collection of 171 interviews, collectively offering an intimate portrait of former president Bill Clinton.”—Booklist, A Top 10 Biography of 2011

"Takiff claims a certain objectivity and points to the fact that he interviewed 171 people who had commerce with Clinton."—Dave Wood, Anoka County Union

Winner of the 2010 Los Angeles Book Festival in the Biography/Autobiography category

Recipient of the 2011 San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention in Biography

Won Honorable Mention in 2011 New York Book Festival in the Biography/Autobiography