Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public

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9780375727085: Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public

One of America's most admired TV anchors gives us an intimate chronicle of the final year of the twentieth century. In this engrossing narrative, a national bestseller, are all the most significant matters of that year--from Bill Clinton’s impeachment to Columbine, from the war in Kosovo to Y2K and the mass-marketing of Viagra. Here are the people who made the news--from Slobodan Milosevic to Hillary Rodham Clinton to Michael Jordan to John F. Kennedy Jr. The events of 1999 anticipate so many of the on-going challenges America faces today that Koppel’s account feels entirely prescient.

Koppel's book moves on yet another level as events trigger memories of his own past, providing a more personal resonance to his telling of the history we all share. He takes us back to the England in which he lived until he was thirteen. He revisits his powerful experiences as an interviewer investigating prison abuses and probing the violence in our schools. He discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the media; he talks about racial intolerance, about brutality toward gay people, about the absence of political leadership. He also examines such cultural phenomena as our obsession with celebrity and the impact of great theater and overhyped movies.  

        Here is the voice we knew so well from Nightline--intelligent, curious, opinionated, witty, concerned--reminding us in entertaining and thought-provoking ways that even the most public events reverberate in our private lives.

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Review:

The title of Ted Koppel's memoir, Off Camera: Private Thoughts Made Public, promises opinions that its author wouldn't deliver on camera, where he's been the anchor of ABC's popular Nightline program since 1980. And, indeed, he's blistering at times in this book, which is essentially a daily journal from 1999. That year began between President Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives and his trial in the Senate. Here's Koppel delivering his prognosis of the situation: "Whichever way it goes, it will leave a nasty aftertaste. The President and First Lady will speak piously of national reconciliation, while their loyalists ram the rockets' red glare up the tailpipes of the right-wing fanatics, who have confused low morals with high crimes." Koppel's comments are not always so interesting, but he's reliably candid. He mentions that Jordan's late King Hussein "had his share of adulterous relationships," that Dan Quayle "is not stupid. He is also likable. But you would feel uncomfortable serving under him in a platoon," and that Henry Hyde once informed him privately that "he was incontinent following his prostate surgery."

There's no particular theme to the book; these pages simply collect the thoughts of an important newsman during the course of a year (whose noteworthy events included not just the Clinton trial but also NATO's war with Serbia). Sometimes they're pompous: "I'm off for a meeting with Bill Bradley. It's at his request, which is a clear signal that he's running for the presidency." Sometimes they're funny: "Let's combine all the awards ceremonies for the communications and entertainment industries and name that one event after the single piece of equipment used by all of us--the microphone. I suggest calling the occasion 'the Phonies.'" Koppel is occasionally offbeat, as when he compares George W. Bush to Vanna White, and often informative, as when he's recommending books like Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden or Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (which he once gave as a gift to Clinton). Off Camera is an eclectic package of thoughts and diversions that will by turns intrigue, frustrate, and entertain readers. --John J. Miller

From the Inside Flap:

Ted Koppel, anchor of "Nightline, is one of America's most intelligent and respected journalists. With this fascinating book, he finally lets us know the man behind the face we've trusted late at night for almost twenty years.
Off Camera is a daily journal of the year that brought the twentieth century to a close--the year of Monica and Y2K, of shootings at Columbine, of the death of JFK, Jr. With riveting insight and lucid prose, Koppel chronicles his thoughts on these events and more, from interactive TV to the war in Kosovo to the dumbing down of network news. Witty, provocative, and wise, this book is indispensable.

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