Review

The Columnist

by Jeffrey Frank

Read an Excerpt



"I believe that one's sexual appetite corresponds in part to one's
abilities in other fields." If that statement, uttered by the
protagonist of THE COLUMNIST, is true, then Brandon Sladder, the
journalist in Jeffrey Frank's book about a fictional writer's life
in the heaving bosom of the beltway, is not a genius but certainly
most prolific in his work. When Brandon Sladder is advised by a
visibly well-meaning George Herbert Bush to tell his own life story
--- he says that he and "Bar" always loved Sladder's columns and
perspectives --- Sladder embarks on a journey back to his
beginnings.

He begins his life in Washington at a most auspicious time: The
Kennedy White House is in power, and his view of the DC underworld
is limited at first. As he goes from job to job, meeting more and
more of the high and mighty of the inner circle politicos and
blowhards, Sladder learns the ins and outs of the intricate
layering of the social scene and the difficulties and extravagances
of the print world as it fights the good fight against television
journalism. "People born in an age of television may not understand
what it meant to get a column of one's own," Sladder says, and he
is right --- although there is still some of the same
high-mindedness about political columnists and their views in these
days of constant scandal and bad maneuvering by the big boys.
However, as Sladder's career zooms towards its zenith, his personal
life takes some distinctive twists and turns, as when he finds
himself on the phone in the middle of his 29th birthday party,
discussing the war with President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his
angry wife hangs up the receiver. Things go right down the drain
from there.

Frank gives Sladder a nice, easygoing tone that makes THE COLUMNIST
really fun to read. He doesn't try to extrapolate any unnecessarily
melodramatic material from the politics that are going on around
his character --- the wars and scandals make a mark, certainly, in
Sladder's career and life, but it is Sladder and the way he
wrenches himself from his personal strife to continue his
ego-driven ride to the top of the journalistic pyres that makes the
book so amusing. If J. D. Salinger had cheered up and gone on to
write about mature human beings, instead of suicidal
post-adolescents, this is a book he would have written. A very
entertaining first novel.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 21, 2011

The Columnist
by Jeffrey Frank

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743212533
  • ISBN-13: 9780743212533