"Even a child is known by his doings."
This book is at once a strange object and a peculiar event. To touch on the latter for a moment, it was excerpted before publication in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, which chose with an unerring eye those passages most damaging to Ronald Reagan and his administration. Using those same passages, Reagan-loathers such as Joan Didion and Wilfrid Sheed much enjoyed themselves in print. Yet Noonan's book does contain many other passages expressing a kaleidoscope of attitudes toward Reagan, many of them highly favorable. One reflects, however, that Noonan must have approved of the selection published in the Times, corrected the galleys, and so forth. She is smart enough to have known what the Times was up to. Why did she put up with it? To get her face on the cover of the Times Magazine? Was this, in the famous words of Orwell's parody, another case of "Under the spreading chestnut tree, / I sold you, and you sold me?" Is personal publicity really the ultimate value for Peggy Noonan?
But before we return to the subject of this book as an event, let us consider it as an object, about which a great many things can be said.
One experiences in What I Saw at the Revolution an extreme discontinuity; the book is like a smashed mirror. To change...