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NONFICTION : GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME by Liz Carpenter (Simon & Schuster: $17.95; 284 pp.).

July 12, 1987|Annie Gilbar

The words to describe Liz Carpenter's tale of her days as a political activist, White House insider, friend, wife, mother and writer may be trite--homespun, delightful, warm, touching, friendly and insightful--yet the book is anything but. This is not just another gossipy account of the life of a Washington veteran.

Carpenter has always been a woman motivated and involved--whether it was as a journalist, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson or press secretary to Lady Bird, or as a crusader for equal rights for women. She has succeeded in combining homespun remedies (and poems and recipes) and advice on dealing with aging and the loss of a loved one, along with memories of growing up in Texas. What works best of all are her affectionate anecdotes about her friends (some of whom are well known, all of whom are clever and somehow wise).

Whether it's Alice Roosevelt Longworth's advice on dealing with dinner guests ("If you owe a bore a dinner, send it to him"), or Walter Lippmann's insistence on serving drinks in empty peanut butter or jelly jars, or Bill Moyers' sense of humor about Johnson and the press (Reporter: "Bill, was the President on the lake yesterday?" Moyers: "Yes." Reporter: "Boating?" Moyers: "He just went for a walk"), the stories are charming and heartwarming. Wish there were more of them in this lively and loving book.

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