WASHINGTON -- 'Tis the time of award giving in the great republic. Soon the Pulitzer Prizes will be awarded, always at the risk of raising to eminence a plagiarist or literary fabricator. The Oscars already have been awarded, in their case at the risk of raising to eminence an arrant fool or likely felon. Now it again falls to me to announce the recommendation of the highly secretive J. Gordon Coogler Award for the Worst Book of the Year. This year, the Coogler Committee has recommended "True Compass," the autobiography of Edward M. Kennedy, which is for me problematic. Sen. Kennedy passed away Aug. 25, 2009.
I always enjoy indulging in a bit of raillery at the expense of the year's Coogler laureate (you will forgive me). In the case of the recently deceased, raillery would not be in good taste. One does not make fun of the dead. In the case of Sen. Kennedy, I am, at least, assured that one of the long-standing traditions of the J. Gordon Coogler Award will remain intact. As in years gone by, this year's Coogler laureate will not make an appearance at the award ceremony. Actually, I considered asking the Coogler Committee to recommend another author so that I might have a few laughs at our laureate's expense. However, after reading "True Compass," I decided that it deserved recognition, though not on the usual grounds. Neither philistine nor stupid, "True Compass" is actually a charmingly written book, which is in keeping with the Kennedy family's tradition of employing fine ghostwriters. JFK did it with "Profiles in Courage" and, come to think of it, won a Pulitzer for Ted Sorensen's work.
At any rate, this book is, indeed, charming and conveys the sense that "Teddy," as he is called, lived a hearty and happy life. Moreover, he expresses a semblance of regret for the misery he caused some who crossed his path. What I have decided earns him his Coogler is that this book showcases at least two of the evils haunting American politics today, the poisonous partisanship that marks the Supreme Court nomination process and the commonplace acceptance of arrant lies about conservatives, particularly about Ronald Reagan.