She began her career in 1954 as a shy Washington Evening Star cub reporter at the Army-McCarthy hearings on Capitol Hill; when she died fifty years later, she was a Washington Post syndicated columnist carried in forty newspapers, winner of the Post’s Eugene Meyer Award, and the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. In his colorful new biography of Mary McGrory (Viking, $28.95), John Norris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, recounts this pioneering female journalist’s many professional achievements, as well as her long-lasting personal disappointment over an unrequited love. Half-Irish and half-German, McGrory celebrated St. Patrick’s Day every year by baking Italian lasagna in her Cleveland Park apartment. Although she had a manner that was erudite and polite, at heart she was a hardworking political watchdog who wrote with an unexpected, unmistakable bark. President Johnson tried to seduce her by comparing himself to President Kennedy; President Nixon tried to silence her by adding her name to his most-hated enemies list. Neither president was successful. But her biographer does indeed succeed in rounding out the life of this widely respected journalist, the model for successors like Molly Ivins and Maureen Dowd in the next generation.
Washington, DC: the name conjures iconic imagery, grand boulevards and magnificent structures proclaiming the might of America. Once you’ve read Empire of Mud, however, any such associations come crashing right back into the swamp as J.D.Dickey embarks on his thoroughly entertaining history of our capital city. Starting as a disease-ridden, soggy patch of land selected by George Washington as part of an unsatisfactory compromise, Dickey lifts the lid on how this city truly came to be. Vice and corruption ran rampant: opposing firefighter gangs fought in the streets while madams and criminals took full advantage of a prevailing culture of lawlessness and crisis. Full of fascinating tidbits and memorable characters, this is history at its most vivid.
Dream City, a history of the District and its most iconic mayor, may be the most divisive book ever written about D.C. with the split often coming down across racial and economic lines. Its primary subject, Mayor Marion Barry, Jr., referred to its co-author as “Uncle” Tom Sherwood. Simply put, if Baltimore has “The Wire” we have Dream City, and the story it tells celebrates and shames us in equal measure. Love it or hate it, this should be required reading for all D.C. residents. But what do I think? Personally, I think the District of Columbia should give you a free copy when you buy a house or sign a lease. Until then buy it here!
(This book cannot be returned.)