This review by Florence King appears in the April 2007 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe to the monthly print edition, click here.p> em> The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly br> by Marvin Kitman br> (St. Martin’s Press, 318 pages, $25.95) /em> /p>
I SPEAK TO YOU FROM my bed of pain. This book does not start getting good until Chapter Sixteen, but there was no one to advise me of this so I foolishly read the first fifteen chapters first and have the CT-Scan results to prove it.
I should have read the book backwards but I didn’t and now I am paying for the author’s compulsive fidelity to chronology at all costs. What he should have done is written it backwards, kicking off with the Mouth of O’Reilly Present, then gone into a flashback on the Mouth of O’Reilly Past, and last, summed up his predictions in a final chapter called the Mouth of O’Reilly Yet to Come. This would have won O’Reilly’s approval in view of his famous campaign to rescue Christmas, and put some space between the wheat and the chaff that we are asked to digest.
Instead we begin with his birth — 1949 or the Year One, take your pick — in what O’Reilly the proud prole insists was working-class Levittown, Long Island, and what his enemies insist was a higher class suburb, and immediately find ourselves reading through a wrangle about zip codes and presented with a photocopy of the deed to the family house with Levittown clearly visible on it. The same class-based picayune contention springs up over his school: Was it an elite Catholic academy or not? To help us get to the bottom of this we hear all about the nuns, the priests, the library, the grounds, the athletic field, scholarly priorities, and academic philosophy, all detailed in verbatim interviews of anyone who ever saw or heard of the place.
The Mouth of O’Reilly Past dominates these early rambling interviews, his unselective ego taking as much pleasure in bragging about a fight in the hallway as it does in bragging about demolishing a famous politician on TV. The boast is the thing; all boasts are equal. When recalling his school days he boasts about sports. He went out for everything, always choosing, says Kitman, the position that would make him the center of attention: pitcher, quarterback, goalie.
“I was so much better than what they had, you know, it was ridiculous. I mean, it was absurd. I remember the punter… you know…Boom!… And everybody was like… and then they were going for field goals. The holder, you know, the guy, he takes the snap, intentionally turned the laces in to me because he didn’t like me, didn’t want me on the team….”
“I made the varsity hockey team,” he sighs, but his working-class family had no money for equipment so “I had my mother sew a pad that covered my arm…. I bought second-hand leg pads, you know, leg pads that had been around since Gump Worsley’s day. The other kids were affluent, you know, and looked great,” while poor O’Reilly looked like a ragamuffin on ice. “But I was so tough. I mean, I would do anything just to not let that puck go in the goal.”
Blah, blah, blah. On and on it goes, what every man has heard in a bar, what every woman has heard on a date, with, in O’Reilly’s case, the inevitable additional boast about his height of six-foot-four and all the shrimps who resented him for it. “This coach, he hated me, he was like five-four…. So here’s this guy, see, he’s about five-eight… And I stand up, and he’s like, you know, looking way up….” Just when we think we can’t stand another reference to his height, one of the rambling interviewees earns the reader’s eternal gratitude with, “He was tall but he was slow. Those skinny legs wouldn’t support him.”
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Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
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