Cover image for Washington
Greenfield, Meg.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Public Affairs, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxx, 241 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1390 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F201 .G74 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F201 .G74 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Written in secret before her death in 1999, Greenfield's (editor, Washington Post, and Pulitzer Prize winner) narrative outlines the process of competitive image projection as it erodes the moral and personal sense of politicians and their journalistic counterparts. She identifies the principal species of the Washington DC subculture and recounts the history she saw unfold. Attention is given to the hostility toward professional women, the fall of the Southern oligarchy, the careers of eight Presidents (Kennedy to Clinton), and even occasional heroics. c. Book News Inc.

Author Notes

Meg Greenfield wrote this book in secrecy at the end of her life

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Greenfield, who died in 1999, was the Pulitzer Prize^-winning editorial director at the Washington Post and a columnist for Newsweek. A Beltway fixture for almost 40 years, she wrote this dissection of Washington culture in secret, unbeknownst to family and friends. This notion of an insider telling tales out of school makes the book sound a lot juicier than it is. In fact, the tone is more clinical than sensational. Washington, she reveals, is like high school, and the overachieving student-council members are running the show. She shows how these "good children" come into political life, learn how to take on a persona, and then become it, often to the dismay of family members who are expected to function as little more than props. Greenfield also writes about the symbiotic relationship between the politicians and the press. Although one wouldn't necessarily expect her to name names, the book suffers from a lack of concrete examples to illustrate the theories being discussed. When she does mention specific politicians, they often go back 30 years. Political junkies will find much to like here, but there's not enough dish to make a best-seller. Sadly, not everyone remembers Everett Dirksen. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Arriving in Washington on the Kennedy wave in 1961, Greenfield went on to journalistic renown as a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer at the Washington Post (taking over the page's editorship in 1979) and as a Newsweek columnist. In this wry analysis of Beltway moving and shaking, Greenfield (no relation to CNN's Jeff Greenfield) likens political life in the nation's capital to a "stunted, high-schoolish social structure" born out of isolation from the rest of the world and pervasive insecurities and dreads. In chapters on "Mavericks and Image-Makers," "Women and Children" and other players front- and backstage, Greenfield, who died of cancer in 1999 in her late 60s, brilliantly lays bare 40 years of the methods and foibles of the power elite and those who cover them. This is no tell-all scandal sheet (Washington's pervasive sexual affairs have a "biff-bam, backseat-of-your-father's Chevy quality") or the work of a "pop sociology scribe," but neither is it a lament for halcyon days. As the foreword from Post publisher Katharine Graham and afterword by historian and PBS commentator Michael Beschloss make clear, Greenfield, who wrote the book in secret and left it at her death, never lost her "principles, detachment or individual human qualities." Readers will find Greenfield's in-the-know frankness irresistible whatever their party affiliations the mark of great journalism. (Apr. 29) Forecast: Both sides of the aisle of the eponymous city will read this book, and it will certainly be a nostalgia stoker for talking heads on the Sunday morning after its release. Major review attention and the book's inimitably great writing should lead to strong sales nationwide. Oddly, it's Greenfield's first book, though a collection of her columns is in the works. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Greenfield, editor of the editorial/opinion pages of the Washington Post until her death in 1999, left behind this jeremiad-cum-memoir, in which she describes the Washington political scene as "high school at its most dangerously deranged." She mercilessly derides the "hall monitors" and prodigies with whom she claims Washington is rife, ever fearful of losing their jobs because of a misspoken word. In order to defend against no-holds-barred press coverage, politicians now develop, according to Greenfield, a completely fabricated persona, generating formulaic exchanges with journalists that lead to a well-founded distrust of government institutions and the press; her odd contention is that Washington worked better in the past. A denizen of Washington for close to four decades, she has many tales to tell. Katharine Graham and Michael Beschloss, both good friends, supply a warm foreword and a warm afterword, respectively. Washington junkies will love this acerbic appraisal by a woman who was certainly in the know. Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Katharine GrahamMichael Beschloss
Forewordp. ix
Chapter 1 "Something Else Besides Human Life"p. 1
Chapter 2 The Good Child, the Head Kid, the Prodigy, and the Protegep. 21
Chapter 3 Mavericks and Image-Makersp. 55
Chapter 4 A Night at the Operap. 81
Chapter 5 Women and Childrenp. 105
Chapter 6 The News Businessp. 159
Afterwordp. 227
Indexp. 235