Years of backstabbing and betrayal start to catch up with one of Washington’s elite opinion writers, “a character that deserves to jump outside the Beltway and enter the language like ‘Uncle Tom,’ ‘Peter Pan,’ or ‘Scrooge.’” (Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor).
During a cocktail party, George H. W. Bush encourages Brandon Sladder, the prominent Washington columnist, to write his memoirs. Sladder has, after all, known just about everyone of importance. From talking on intimate terms with world leaders, being a witness to enormous change, and expressing his weighty opinions on matters of state, he believes that his own story could add so much more than a footnote to our age. But what is meant to be a look back at his life and our times turns out to be far more revealing.
The Columnist is Sladder’s attempt to burnish his image for posterity. What emerges is something else: the misadventures of an irresistibly loathsome man—self-important, social climbing, dangerously oblivious, “an unforgettable character who is lovably hateable” (Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book) and one of the most memorable rogues in contemporary fiction. The Columnist is a dead-on, elegantly written portrait of the media and politics of the second half of the twentieth century—“It’s Balzac as word-processed by Philip Roth, only, for my two cents…funnier…[A] great American novel” (Christopher Buckley, author of Thank You for Smoking).
Jeffrey Frank was a senior editor at The New Yorker, the deputy editor of TheWashington Post’s Outlook section, and is the author of Ike and Dick. He has published four novels, among them the Washington Trilogy—The Columnist, Bad Publicity, and Trudy Hopedale—and is the coauthor, with Diana Crone Frank, of a new translation of Hans Christian Andersen stories, which won the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Prize. He is a contributor to The New Yorker, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bookforum, and Vogue, among other publications.