cover image X Factor: A Quest for Excellence

X Factor: A Quest for Excellence

George Plimpton. W. W. Norton & Company, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03484-4

The first section of this book is as entertaining as anything Plimpton (Out of My League) has written. His loss at horseshoes to then-President George Bush prompted him to prepare for a promised rematch by investigating the X factor, aka the will to win, the killer instinct, etc. He interviewed star athletes and CEOs to find out what ingredients bring success when one is competing against others at least as accomplished as oneself. Plimpton contends that the winning factors include focus, toughness, persistence and a suspension of the intellect. The latter part of the book, in which the author visits Camp David with his son for the return engagement and loses abysmally, turns into an encomium for Bush and his extended family. Plimpton portrays him as a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and an especially considerate individual, and suggests that his defeat in the 1992 presidential election does not diminish Bush as ``an avatar of the X Factor.'' (Mar.)