Limited Taxation & Government
Post Office Box 408    Peabody, Massachusetts   01960     (617) 248-0022

Barbara's Bi-Weekly Column

The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, September 12, 1998

Weld's Book: Read It and Laugh - or Weep
By Barbara Anderson

I figured there had to be more to Bill Weld's book than, literally, met the eye of the professional critic. So as soon as I faced the fact that I was not going to get a free autographed copy in the mail, I dropped by a local bookstore to purchase Mackerel By Moonlight from the 15% discount section.

I renewed my preferred reader card, got a extra discount for renewal and another because I'm a preferred reader, and earned several bonus points; in the end I think they paid me to buy the book.

The young clerk was curious about my choice; she said that she and others were turned off by the jacket photo of Weld in his hunting garb, wearing a knife and carrying a rifle. "I'm a vegetarian," she proudly explained.

I told her I didn't think he actually ate what he killed, that he probably does it just for sport. Judging from her response, this was about as helpful as the attempts I made to defend the man when he was governor. Just kidding, miss (see "pigeon and rabbit cassoulet" on page 133)!

Anyhow, I was eager to start reading a novel compared on the jacket text with two of my favorite funnybooks, Chris Buckley's "Thank you for Smoking" and Joe Klein's "Primary Colors." I figured that I could find the hidden genius behind what some had called a weak plot just by reading it on two levels, as one does Weld's beloved Nabokov (read "Pale Fire").

I'd like to say I couldn't put it down, and I actually didn't have to: the book is only 232 pages, and the print is writ large, so the whole project took just a few hours. But I did take a break in the middle to drive downtown for a snack.

I knew what this meant: it meant I was starting to get uncomfortable about something I didn't want to face, so naturally it was time to distract myself with food.

Several ice cream sandwiches worked well enough to get me to the end and I recommend you try it yourself. In the process, you'll discover things you may not have known about the man who was your governor for seven years.

Even a master disseminator like Bill Weld can't write a book without putting himself into it somewhere. Despite the clever convolution of being an Irish Catholic Democrat instead of a Yankee Republican, running for District Attorney instead of Governor, and the distraction of placing his real self in a minor role as the book's Yankee governor, there is little doubt that the narrator is thinking the author's own thoughts about a lot of things.

Want to know why Governor Weld went out of his way to support gay rights? Read page 34. Never mind that, unlike the book's main character, the author wasn't an orphan; childhood loneliness can also be felt by poor little rich boys, leading to empathy for the unaccepted. The sentence "I can't tell you how that enraged me" jumps off the page as an entirely real statement from someone who wasn't known for public rage.

If you ever met the guy and in a moment of pathetic cluelessness, tried to have a peer-like conversation with him, you will recognize his social theory expressed on page 103 ("never say hello, goodbye..."). If you wondered how the governor could seem so naive at times, considering his experience as a crime prosecutor, read the chapter titled "It All Started with a Sandwich" and suspect that you were the one who was naive.

Were you curious about the Governor's morning staff meetings? Read Mullally's "First Law of Management" on page 182. Did it annoy you when he seemed to be too cozy with the Democrats on Beacon Hill? The reason is on the same page: imagine that the characters are talking not about the book's attorney general but Senate President Bill Bulger.

Now, it's entirely possible that the writer who cites the English maxim "never complain, never explain" (page 103) is using this book because he has a need to explain himself as well as show off some of his mental and verbal gymnastic skills, which would make Bill Weld like the rest of us, in a way.

But it's equally possible that he is just having a pale fire funfest with his readers and ex-constituents and if that's the case, it's not for the first time. Read this book and laugh; read it and weep.

Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her bi-weekly column is syndicated and appears in the (Quincy) Patriot Ledger, (Salem) Evening News, (Attleboro) Sun-Chronicle, (Worcester) Telegram-Gazette and others.

Return to Barbara's Columns