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Personal History (1997)

av Katharine Graham

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2,338374,613 (4.06)52
2 cassettes / 3 hours Read by the Author Listen to Katharine Graham tell you her story. Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women,Personal Historyis, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history. It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-outWashington Post, and the formidable, self-absorbed mother who was more interested in her political and charity work, and her passionate friendships with men like Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson, than in her children. It is the story of howThe Washington Poststruggled to succeed -- a fascinating and instructive business history as told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son). It is the story of Phil Graham -- Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices) -- whose plunge into manic-depression, betrayal, and eventual suicide is movingly and charitably recounted. Best of all, it is the story of Kay Graham herself. She was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She is half-Jewish, yet -- incredibly -- remained unaware of it for many years.She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and he fascinated and educated her, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. This destruction of her confidence and happiness is a drama in itself, followed by the even more intense drama of her new life as the head of a great newspaper and a great company, a famous (and even feared) woman in her own right. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance -- a success story on every level. Graham's book is populated with a cast of fascinating characters, from fifty years of presidents (and their wives), to Steichen, Brancusi, Felix Frankfurter, Warren Buffett (her great advisor and protector), Robert McNamara, George Schultz (her regular tennis partner), and, of course, the great names from thePost: Woodward, Bernstein, and Graham's editor/partner, Ben Bradlee. She writes of them, and of the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of thePost(including the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the pressmen's strike), with acuity, humor, and good judgment. Her book is about learning by doing, about growing and growing up, about Washington, and about a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.… (mer)
  1. 00
    Kleopatra : ett liv av Stacy Schiff (Menagerie)
    Menagerie: Two strong women that lived centuries apart but faced many of the same obstacles.
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An interesting perspective on the management of the Post, from her husband (who wasn't shy to use the paper to promote his politics) to herself. Graham herself grows quite a lot as she assumes responsibility for the paper. There's also lots of history, and I liked seeing these familiar events described concatenated and from a single perspective.

The book gets substantially worse in the last third. After the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, we are treated to a blow-by-blow of a printers' strike (which is actually more interesting than it sounds), but then the story just turns into a weirdly impersonal business story. She doesn't seem to want to talk more about herself or her relationships, except that with Warren Buffett.

Her privileged perspective sticks out from the beginning, when she has a tête-à-tête with her best friend with only three servants in attendance, to the end, when she is flying around the world on her private jet and hosting parties for hundreds of her closest friends, while she puts down a printer who commits suicide after she breaks the strike.

> I can't say I think Mother genuinely loved us. Toward the end of her life, I was a success in her eyes, and perhaps that is what she loved. Yet, with all her complexity, I felt closer throughout my early childhood to my mother than to the very distant and rather difficult figure of my father.

> In those days, the people in Washington often found out what was happening at the ballpark by watching the big scoreboard in front of the Post's E Street building, where the scores were posted in chalk. Occasionally my father himself carried the scores from the telegraph man to the man at the scoreboard. Once, when Goose Goslin hit a home run to win a big game, he asked that the scores not be posted until he could get there and see the pleasure of the large crowds that always gathered to watch. ( )
  breic | Oct 11, 2020 |
During one of his talks, Warren Buffet recommended this book, so I picked up a used copy. There are a few things I liked about it. First, serving as the publisher of the Washington Post during the 1970’s and 1980’s would be a fascinating job for anyone, and I found it interesting to read the historical context around Ms. Graham’s professional and personal experiences. The Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and labor strife provided the highlights. I also enjoyed reading about the life of a high-profile woman who served in an otherwise male-dominated job. She faced important challenges along the way, and I think she did an admirable job dealing with them. Ms. Graham also faced traumatic personal circumstances with her husband’s philandering, mental challenges, and dramatic suicide. She carries a charitable view of him despite his flaws, and that is admirable. I took away a less charitable view of him. Some of the rawest portions of the book, in my view, are those places in which she expresses sadness over the times she neglected her children for the sake of her career or her desire to travel. See, e.g., p. 338.

There are a few reasons that I didn’t rate this book higher. I had to struggle to get through the entire book; it was not a page-turner and, somewhat surprisingly to me, the writing was only fair. But I trudged through to the end. Also, the book carries with it the inherent flaws of most autobiographies: the reader only gets one side of the story. I was sensitive to this throughout the read. Ms. Graham was somewhat self-critical, but any normal person has limits in that regard. I also found it mildly ironic in multiple places when Ms. Graham would express displeasure about how uncomfortable and unpleasant it was for others to closely scrutinize her professional decision-making and her personal life at times. She was the publisher of the Washington Post. Finally, I didn’t walk away from the book thinking that Katharine Graham was an extraordinary person. (Most of us aren’t, so I don’t mean this as a personal criticism!) Rather, I found her to be a fairly ordinary person that happened to end up in extraordinary circumstances because of her birth into a very wealthy family. She handled many things well, but this is not the story of someone who struggled early on in life, only to pull herself up by her own bootstraps to achieve great things. She had great situations handed to her, and she managed them adequately. ( )
  Joe24 | Jul 7, 2020 |
Graham, Katharine (Subject)
  LOM-Lausanne | Apr 30, 2020 |
A memoir about growing up and living amongst ludicrous amounts of wealth and political power. As a record of the rich and powerful, this is an incredible behind the scenes of the way power in politics and business is traded and built upon favours and connections, and how that, beyond a certain level, idealism gives way to the thrall of having power.

Graham is interestingly sidelined in the first half of her own memoir. It focused instead on the life of her parents - her mother heavily critiqued and her father heavily idolised -, her father's purchase of WaPo, her own childhood where her outward poise and confidence were at odds with her insecurity - where she simultaneously acknowledged her out-of-touch-ness with the world due to her extremely privileged upbringing and wealth while also still coming across as a bit out-of-touch -, her marriage to the charismatic Phil who would eventually be handed WaPo, and the politics of the times her family owned WaPo and the way they themselves were involved in the politics, perhaps unethically so for owners of a newspaper. The second half does focus more on Graham, but mostly with respect to how various political and cultural events have shaped her as the president/chairman/publisher of WaPo.

The whole book read more like a history of WaPo and Who's Who of Washington and the international political scene. I suppose when your whole life is so intricately intertwined with the growth of your family company, the boundaries between your personal and your professional life tend to get blurry. Imagine being close friends with presidents & Henry Kissinger & Warren Buffett & Jean Monnet (who I didn't know but will now always remember thanks to KG's sly blink-and-you'll-miss-it addendum about how she can testify to his virility!) and many more!

I wonder though, how honest were these recounts. As the wealthy head of a newspaper, the amount of records and accessible expertise at your fingertips definitely requires you to have your facts right. But in terms of the abstractions that make up real life, was she really as insecure and unsure as she painted herself? Did the events really unfold thus because of situations out of her control or her comfort etc? Or is the book an excellent PR exercise? (I believe so.) While an autobiography can never be truly objective and impartial, Graham's has done a great job at appearing fair and also whetting my appetite for other perspectives.

As an educational refresher for major historical events via the journalistic perspective, this book is great. The Pentagon papers, Watergate, and the act of reporting were thrillingly described and deservedly took up a sixth of this brick of a book. My knowledge of them were always very patchy and now the upside of having consolidated a bit more is that I now get about five more 30 Rock references!

The last sixth of the book was about the 1975 union strike, which I was very sceptical about to read from the management's perspective especially a newspaper with obligations to stockholders (Here is good counter to Graham's strike narrative from the union's and history's perspectives). But it was fascinating to read about all the different types of work that goes into physically producing a newspaper, not just the journalism.

Reading context: a surprisingly timely read as it turns out the Washington Post Express very abruptly announced its closure yesterday to its staff - who were not counted as part of the WP Guild union - during a meeting. ( )
  kitzyl | Sep 16, 2019 |
I read it mostly because of my morbid fascination with the more miserable aspects of the 1970s, like Watergate, but it’s a very engaging book beginning to end. (To cover some of the same ground I also recommend Ben Bradlee’s A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures (1995).)

So you might think that the most interesting bits would be about the inheriting the Washington Post upon her husband’s suicide, or the Pentagon Papers, or Watergate. But no, the best part was about her knock-down, drag-out labor fight with the craft trade unions that were strangling her paper.

“Knock-down, drag-out fight” is not hyperbole. They were negotiating with the press operators up to the day the contract was set to expire at midnight. Negotiators gave each other assurances that so long as the parties continued to negotiate in good faith, they’d continue working and paying status quo. Management was nervous, so they stayed in their offices until after midnight and just keep an eye on things for a while. Everything with the print run for the next morning’s paper was proceeding normally, so at about 2:00 a.m. management went home. At about 4:00 a.m., the pressmen destroyed three presses, set fires, flooded the building, beat the shop foreman nearly to death, and went on strike.

Fourteen of the saboteurs were criminally convicted. The union’s precondition for negotiation was that all fourteen be re-hired with the rest. Graham refused and broke them. She reached deals with all of the other craft unions, but to this day the paper’s presses are run by non-union pressmen. The pressmen’s union was uniformly white, and most of the replacement workers hired were black. ( )
1 rösta k6gst | Jul 6, 2019 |
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I would like to dedicate this book to the most important people in it:
my parents, Eugene and Agnes Meyersm
my husband, Philip L. Graham,
my children, Elizabeth (Lally) Weymouth, and Donald, William and Stephen Graham
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My parents' paths first crossed in a museum on 23rd Street in New York.
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ISBN 0736636978 and 0736636986 are an unabridged audio book in two containers; Read by Francis Cassidy.

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2 cassettes / 3 hours Read by the Author Listen to Katharine Graham tell you her story. Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women,Personal Historyis, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history. It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-outWashington Post, and the formidable, self-absorbed mother who was more interested in her political and charity work, and her passionate friendships with men like Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson, than in her children. It is the story of howThe Washington Poststruggled to succeed -- a fascinating and instructive business history as told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son). It is the story of Phil Graham -- Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices) -- whose plunge into manic-depression, betrayal, and eventual suicide is movingly and charitably recounted. Best of all, it is the story of Kay Graham herself. She was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She is half-Jewish, yet -- incredibly -- remained unaware of it for many years.She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and he fascinated and educated her, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. This destruction of her confidence and happiness is a drama in itself, followed by the even more intense drama of her new life as the head of a great newspaper and a great company, a famous (and even feared) woman in her own right. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance -- a success story on every level. Graham's book is populated with a cast of fascinating characters, from fifty years of presidents (and their wives), to Steichen, Brancusi, Felix Frankfurter, Warren Buffett (her great advisor and protector), Robert McNamara, George Schultz (her regular tennis partner), and, of course, the great names from thePost: Woodward, Bernstein, and Graham's editor/partner, Ben Bradlee. She writes of them, and of the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of thePost(including the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the pressmen's strike), with acuity, humor, and good judgment. Her book is about learning by doing, about growing and growing up, about Washington, and about a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.

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