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Critics take on 'My Life'


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(CNN) -- As with his presidency, while Bill Clinton's autobiography has generated widespread popular support, the reviews have not been as favorable.

Copies of Clinton's memoir, "My Life," virtually flew off the shelves when it was released earlier this week, but much of the critics' response to the book have questioned its literary and storytelling, if not historical, value.

Below are excerpts of some of the early reviews of the 957-page autobiography:

"My Life" is not a great book. It's not even a good book, but like its author, it has its moments and flashes of insight. It is Clintonesque: frustrating and fascinating, more exhausting than exhaustive.

-- Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

"My Life" is not a great book, in places it's not even that good - but when you read it, you can't help but feel you're in the company, one on one, of the man himself. It's his voice you hear on the page, for good and sometimes ill. The fact that it's 957 pages long only adds to the effect: it's as if you've been caught on a train from Boston to San Francisco and ended up sitting opposite the last president of the United States. He's got all the time in the world and he's in the mood to talk.

-- Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

There are few revelations in "My Life." But, even if this book is not a page-turner, it does offer more useful insights into the first baby-boomer President's life and political legacy than even more self-serving memoirs did for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Clinton's recollections regarding the Middle East peace process are poignant; his comments on combating terrorism are more informative and instructive than the grumblings of President Bush or Vice President Cheney. And his complaints about the abuses of process and politics committed by not-so-special prosecutor Ken Starr and his minions merit repetition.

-- John Nichols, TheNation.com

How can someone with such a colorful personality and formidable ability to communicate produce such a flat, colorless book? A lot of it reads like daily diary entries and mind-numbing recitations of foreign capitals visited and bills signed. Part of the answer might be that this is a presidential memoir, and like most others, it's written to influence history's judgment.

-- Mara Liasson, NPR's "All Things Considered"

The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull -- the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.

In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr. Clinton's presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration.

-- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"My Life" is an extension of Mr. Clinton's talk-therapy politics. Like him, "My Life" is appealing, amusing, at times touching, inspiring and always informative.

It is also a long-winded lecture. It is wearingly self-indulgent in the way its author recounts every strategy, replays every achievement, extols every ally. Mr. Clinton has the rest of his life to expound on his legacy - which includes a lot of holes for him to patch.

-- Jerome Weeks, The Dallas Morning News

Still a relatively young man, Clinton has lived a life filled with significant and dramatic events. Yet his thoughts on it are curiously shallow, products of that inner paradox that has rendered so much of the boomer's inner life impersonal and self-absorbed at the same time ... Socrates instructed us that the unexamined life is not worth living. As it turns out, the superficially examined life is only fitfully worth reading.

-- Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times


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