American Rhapsody

Joe Eszterhas, Author A. A. Knopf $25.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-375-41144-1
A loud belch commands attention. So will this hyped, bombastic take on the Clinton presidency from Eszterhas, screenwriter of Showgirls, Flashdance, Basic Instinct and other scarlet highlights in film history. Eszterhas knows how to write. His prose sizzles and spits across these hot pages to the hip rhythms of the gonzo journalism pioneered by Rolling Stone, where Eszterhas made his name some 30 years back. Much of the book is outrageously funny, particularly to readers with a healthy inner snickering teen. It's also flagrantly self-righteous, a finger-wagging indictment of how the hopes of the 1960s-embodied, to Eszterhas, in Clinton, the ""first rock and roll American president,"" ""one of us""-went astray as the mind and heart of the chief executive were waylaid by the demanding presidential penis, which, according to Eszterhas (by way of Gennifer Flowers), the commander in chief refers to as ""Willard."" That bit of info, plus many others equally titillating but nearly as trivial, testifies to the prodigious research that apparently went into this volume (""apparently"" because it lacks bibliography and footnotes; it also features explicitly fictional chapters from the viewpoints of assorted principals, including one voiced by Willard). As Eszterhas casts the past 50 American years as a battle between forces dark (Nixon, Reagan, Packwood-i.e., Republicans) and light (the counterculture, James Carville, Larry Flynt), he makes minor news: who knew that Clinton and Monica engaged in oral-anal contact? that Nixon also had a young assistant named Monica? that the same man shot both Vernon Jordan and Larry Flynt? He also sharpens some significant points and sledgehammers them home-points about the confluence of Hollywood (on which this book is also memoir/commentary) and Washington; about how, like a Don Juan with syphilis, the '60s carried in their very excess the seed of self-destruction; about how individuals can shape history (e.g., the role of Larry Flynt in saving Clinton from conviction by the Senate in his impeachment trial, and so the nation from what Eszterhas sees as a potential coup d'etat). But gonzo guy that he is, along the way Eszterhas not only names but calls them, as he thrashes a host of celebrities, from Sharon Stone to Bob Dole and Linda Tripp. It's as if every drop of bile and brain fluid sloshing through Eszterhas has dripped into this book-a manic, mouthy, self-indulgent, impossible to ignore lament for America. 200,000 first printing; first serial to Talk. (Aug. 18)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Compact Disc - 978-1-893224-40-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-893224-31-5
Hardcover - 845 pages - 978-0-7862-2995-6
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-375-72554-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-893224-43-8
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