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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2005
Biographies are usually dull, because they implicitly brag about the achievements of the rich and powerful and famous and glamorous rather than dealing with a topic that's really important and interesting -- ME !
This book is an exception to the rule.
It's a fascinating story of a once super-privileged Jewish boy whose family escaped pre-war Czechoslovakia because a Roman Catholic priest gave them certificates to slip past the Holocaust. Being Catholics enabled his family to emigrate to Canada, where he became the leading political analyst in newspapers, magazines and books. Like many immigrants, he is more Canadian than most people born in the country; the result is a book written with humour, kindness and a sense of shattering disappointment and disillusion.
Political journalism is a slash-and-burn war in the US, anchored by the pure hatred of right-wing zealots such as Rush Limbaugh and his ilk; or the pompous twits who debate whether dissent to erudite liberal wisdom ranks above or below the grunts of orangutans. In Canada, journalism proves "the emperor has no clothes" by laughing at the foibles, faults, fears and follies of politicians. Newman is a 'Mack the Knife' artist, he doesn't use the blunt force trauma of a California Terminator. Newman wielded the best scalpel in Canadian journalism for decades, and he did so with such skill that his victims never felt obliged to drop him from their Christmas card list. In this book, he provides the delicious details of how it was done.
But it's much more.
Think of Newman as an intelligent Garrison Keillor, who talks for 20-minutes every week about the inanities of ordinary folks in Lake Woebegone. Newman tells even better stories about the motivations of the rich and powerful leaders of America's largest trading partner (the single largest source of foreign oil, for example). Newman's harshest criticism is of his own shortcomings, not the faults of the unworthy villains writhing on the point of his pen. But he also portrays the absolute perfidy of some Canadian politicians, the devils who make any US president look saintly by comparison. It's the approach many wish they could have used against Newman 40 years ago.
A few years ago, Newman visited the Theresienstadt concentration camp where most of his relatives died. He also saw 10 names the same as his -- Peta Neumann -- ranging in age from 10 months to 10 years. This is what he escaped in a series of events that would put the film world to shame. But this is not another Holocaust book; it is a story of a life that soared to greatness when nourished by the freedom of Canada. Instead of the "scorched earth" journalism of the US which I favoured, he used humour to puncture the hubris of the high and haughty. In the US, humour is often acerbic. Newman embodies the definition by Stephen Leacock, "the essence of humour is human kindliness", but he accompanies it all with his penetrating analysis of Canadian politics.
To understand the soul of Canada today, this is a prime guidebook.
It's written by a man who knows how to love; a combination of pure exhilaration and crushing despair that creates true passion. Instead of the polls and poltroons of modern politics, Newman's focus is on the feelings and meanings of public service. I've known him since the 1970s, and we've been in the like sport for decades, though I've never worked with or for him (he does quote me briefly in the book). Based on my career, I can honestly say this is the book of a master craftsman gifted with a rare insight, sensitivity and acumen.
It's liable to infuriate many Canadians, who tend to be very sensitive about having their political idols described as emperors without clothes. For that reason, it's probably the best book about Canada written within the last 50 years. Newman reflects the finest principle of honest journalism, "Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable".
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on March 10, 2005
Peter Newman is probably Canada's best-known journalist, an editor of MacClean's Magazine and the Toronto Star, and the author of many books about the Canadian establishment. In this autobiography, he tells us how he came to Canada from Czechoslovakia in 1939 as an eleven-year old, and worked his way steadily upward. He has plenty of interesting stories to tell about prominent people in the Canadian establishment that he has personally known in his lifetime, people like Pierre Trudeau and Conrad Black. He is an excellent writer, and I found the book interesting to read.
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on January 9, 2005
Peter C. Newman is truly a very remarkable and great Canadian. He is by far the greatest non-fiction writer in Canadian history. Newman is a very remarkable and extraordinary person -- I admire the man !
'Here be Dragons' by Peter C. Newman is without a doubt a very very excellent book -- and that is why it is a Canadian best seller. Mr. Newman has led a very outstanding life and his memoirs speak volumes about the greatness of this man.
As a Canadian I am proud I got a copy of this great book by a great man for Christmas. Peter C. Newman's life life story is one to
admire and at the end of the day I recommend this book because
Mr. Newman is truly a great Canadian !
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on November 23, 2004
This is an engrossing book, full of neat information. There's gossip, insight and information--what more could you need?
(...)
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Darcy Rezac: Author, Frog and Prince Secrets (Vancouver) - See all my reviews
I picked up Peter C's new book on Friday and couldn't put it down
until the wee hours of Monday morning. The master raconteur has
turned out a literary prize full of anecdotes, scintillating stories and
rich Canadian history. Peter has met and written about everybody
newsworthy in the country over a lifetime filled with danger, drama,
self-deprecating humour, lust and love. Conrad Black and Barbara
will not be happy campers...but they will be in good company. Peter
tells all!
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i picked up Peter C's new book on Friday and couldn't put it down
until the wee hours of Monday morning. The master raconteur has
turned out a literary prize full of anecdotes, scintillating stories and
rich Canadian history. Peter has met and written about everybody
newsworthy in the country over a lifetime filled with danger, drama,
self-deprecating humour, lust and love. Conrad Black and Barbara
will not be happy campers...but they will be in good company. Peter
tells all!
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