cover image CANARIES IN THE MINESHAFT: Essays on Politics and Media

CANARIES IN THE MINESHAFT: Essays on Politics and Media

Renata Adler, . . St. Martin's, $26.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-27520-4

Former New Yorker writer Adler offers a provocative collection of essays spanning three decades (two pieces are not previously published) that begins by taking the New York Times to task for its handling of the Wen Ho Lee story and ends with a serious, meticulous, and utterly entertaining exegesis of her feud with the Times last year over the propriety of statements she made about Watergate Judge John J. Sirica in her book Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker. The essays in between include pieces on Watergate, the Starr report, Monica, the horrors of Biafra, Sesame Street, quiz shows, soap operas, G. Gordon Liddy (whom, unaccountably, she appears to like), and a ferocious attack on former New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael. Adler's Watergate theory is certainly unique. She argues that the Watergate trial was itself a cover-up of more monstrous acts of treason, keeping U.S. troops in Vietnam in exchange for money from the South Vietnamese government. And while her theory was surely shocking when first published in 1976, it now reads like a shot in the dark. In the Kael piece, Adler says, for starters, that Kael's work is "jarringly, piece by piece, line by line, and without interruption, worthless." In combination, these essays leave a mixed impression. Adler is serious and smart. She apparently honors the sacred duty of a journalist to report accurately. But her criticisms of the Times, at least, some of which may be well taken, flounder on her own self-righteousness. (Sept.)

Forecast:Adler is respected and always controversial, so this is bound to receive lively review coverage that should lead to good sales.