Books for Today's News

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s press conference confessions of adultery yesterday afternoon should  prompt new reader interest in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America (Princeton University Press, 2008; see LJ review here).  Bauer assesses public figures, including Grover Cleveland, Aimee Semple McPherson, Ted Kennedy, Jim Bakker, and Bill Clinton, for their relative success in responding to scandal in which they were involved. She shows that the "public grovel," properly undertaken, has been shown to work in many cases—so although we cannot know what will happen to Gov. Sanford’s marriage, we can’t yet write off his future in politics.

For a look at the theme from an alternate perspective, there’s Stephen Marks’s Confessions of a Political Hitman: My Secret Life of Scandal, Corruption, Hypocrisy and Dirty Attacks That Decide Who Gets Elected (and Who Doesn’t) (Sourcebooks, 2008; see LJ review here), in which Marks dishes the dirt on his years as an "oppostion researcher" for various Republican candidates for elective office. Marks claims to have become disillusioned with his party’s hypocrisy when it came to "family values"—he’s now an independent—but he nonetheless seems happy to publish a book that tells lots of tales with relish. 

On the theme of books related to the news, I’ll do a separate blog next on books of interest in relation to the turmoil in Iran.  

Margaret Heilbrun About Margaret Heilbrun

Margaret Heilbrun is a former Senior Editor, Library Journal Book Review.


  1. Karl Helicher says:

    I disagree that Ted Kennedy successfully responded to his scandal: it cost him a very possible nomination for president. Best,Karl


    Sorry if my phrasing was misleading, Karl! In assessing “their relative success,” she deemed Ted Kennedy a failure, along with several other of her examples. Margaret