Claire Tomalin and Seymour Hersh's separate journalistic/literary memoirs will remain linked in my mind.
Tomalin's "My Own Life" and Hersh's "Reporter" cover the same era when newspapers and book publishers possessed prestige and power. With media under attack and resources waning, Tomalin and Hersh testify to the strength of individual reporters and writers.
Hersh's surprisingly warm-hearted memoir looks back at his scoops that shook Americam society, including My Lai and Abu Gharib. He's one of the few reporters if not the only one who worked for legendary editors William Shawn at the New Yorker and Abe Rosenthal at The New York Times. During his career, he collaborated with or competed against many celebrated journalists.
Along with newspaper and magazine reporting that uncovered abuses by the CIA, State Department, U.S. military and presidential administrations, Hersh has written a number of books and gives an insider's view of American publishing.
Tomalin carried out a similarly brilliant career in British journalism and publishing. Before beginning her series of major literary biographies at age 53, Tomalin was a top literary journalist at the New Statesman and Sunday Times.
She overcame personal tragedies, including the deaths of her husband and one of her three daughters and her son's serious disabilities from spina bifida. She was married to journalist Nicholas Tomalin, killed in Israel while reporting on the Yom Kippur war. Her daughter, Susanna, committed suicide after suffering from a devastating mental illness in young adulthood.
Tomalin covers the wrenching changes in London's newspaper business, working for legendary editor Harold Evans as literary editor for the Sunday Times. Her outrage still burns when she discusses Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Times. She gives a vivid and balanced account of how Murdoch broke the power of the printers' union and forced new technology at the newspaper, decades after the same changes at U.S. newspapers.
Both books display incisive writing, a command of significant detail and memorable personalities. Instead of pessimism, their recollections of their long careers raise hopes for the enduring value of journalism and literature.