Portraits of Courage by George W. Bush (2017, Crown)
This is a tribute book, masquerading as an art book. More than sixty portraits rendered by former President George W. Bush are featured, and I find myself unable to accurately describe them on technical merit. They are certainly far more professional than anything I could accomplish, but I don’t know if they reach professional standards.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The images are of wounded veterans, people who faced and overcame adversity in a variety of ways. The people included in this book all served underneath President Bush, and he wanted to personally paint a portrait of them and speak with them about their stories, which were then written down on the pages accompanying the art. In so doing, President Bush retreats into the background of his own book and lets the veterans shine. The result is a series of inspirational stories and appreciation for the men and women who have served our country.
Every President claims affection for the troops. W. seems to truly mean it… to the point that net author profits from the book are used by his Presidential Center to fund charity work transitioning veterans successfully back into civilian life. It’s a great book to give as a gift, a great book to flip through, just generally a great book.
M*A*S*H Goes to Montreal by Richard Hooker and William E. Butterworth (1977, Pocket Books)
The M*A*S*H books were a series of novels which followed the rowdy mishaps of surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John after returning home from the Korean War. The original book was by Hooker alone and was about their wartime experiences; Butterworth came in to join him on the next dozen-plus for their civilian escapades.
This book centers around a wedding in Canada, but that is merely the conceit around which the comic novel is written. The book – like every other M*A*S*H book, in fact, relies heavily upon the interactions of odd characters placed in unusual situations. The authors have a fine sense of dialogue, which serves as the primary driving mechanism for the story.
One aspect of the books which can be disconcerting is the intentionally excessive use of footnotes. They are used to present jokes that would not fit reasonably into the story, often by way of explanatory details. This draws a reader away from the action… but there is very little action in the books anyway; again, they’re primarily conversational in their nature.
The obvious concern for books like this is that they will cast aspersions on the military personnel they purport to respect. In this instance, the co-author alone virtually guaranteed that would not happen. While many readers are unfamiliar with Butterworth under that name, they may be familiar with the name he’s used to author dozens of bestsellers focusing on the heroism of law enforcement and the military… W.E.B. Griffin.