Nostalgic coverage of Richard Nixon's career raises the cry of revisionism

MAGAZINES

May 08, 1994|By Matthew Gilbert | Matthew Gilbert,The Boston Globe

The Nixon backlash is beginning to rage. When the former president died April 22, much of the media assessed his career with a nostalgic forgiveness -- and forgetfulness? -- that has raised the cry of revisionism. Trickie Dick as a great statesman? As antidote, the May 16 New Republic includes a collection of Nixon-hating quotes from past issues, ranging from a 1952 description of him as a "kept man" and a "phony" to a 1972 look at his "mean and cruel streak." The accompanying article, by Jonathan Rauch, judges Nixon's career "without considering Watergate," and still comes up with little of value: "We have spent the last two decades struggling to undo his errors, and may spend another two the same way."

In New York magazine for May 9, Jacob Weisberg points out that "the final irony of Nixon's life is that the organs of the Eastern liberal establishment, the bete noir of his career, were extremely nice about him when he died. . . . Whatever good Richard Nixon may have done sinks under the weight of his bad deeds, and in the light of the bitterness and cynicism he helped make a permanent feature of American politics." Stay tuned for a backlash backlash.

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Poor Rolling Stone. Its "Hot Issue" was set for the May 19 number, then Kurt Cobain died. And so America's rock magazine of record is stuck with a frothy "Melrose Place" cover amid the most profound rock event of the decade. After a bitty inside piece about Cobain's desperate last days, the editors promise that "in the next issue of Rolling Stone, we will pay full tribute to the life and music of Kurt Cobain."

A question: Is it hot or cool to publicly admit that you secretly watch "Melrose Place"? Anyhow, David Wild's article is a gummy exercise in hype, the sharpest revelation being that behind the scenes, "Everyone gets along frighteningly well." Where's Shannen when you need her? RS also offers a plot chart, for entry-level Melrose maniacs, and a sidebar of "Melrose" confessions, including this one by a Pentagon official: "I actually discuss 'Melrose' on Thursdays with a journalist who covers the Pentagon." Perhaps together they can blow the lid on Kimberly's return-from-the-dead hairdo? By the way, Spelling Queen Heather Locklear, who quite gracefully accepts her "non-divalike" trailer -- "I had a bigger one on 'T.J. Hooker,' but I'm not complaining" -- is much beloved on the "Melrose" set.

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Also in New York, a cover story on a newfangled trauma therapy called EMDR -- eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing. Basically, the therapist moves his or her hand in front of the trauma victim and asks questions about the past. Eyes shifting back and forth, the victim returns to the event -- the rape, the earthquake, the family abuse, the war. Gradually, the memory is defused, the victim "desensitized." Naturally, as EMDR gains visibility, it is becoming controversial. Some think it "may become the psychological wonder cure of the '90s, the non-pharmaceutical equivalent of Prozac." Others, unpersuaded by the test results, are less enthusiastic.

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"NYPD Blue" alert. The May GQ has a cover story on the latest Bochco Hero, David Caruso, he of the very red hair and conflicted eyes. Today's Caruso is serene and self-assured: "He's a happy man," says writer Johanna Schneller, but only after working through a serious drinking problem and a couple of divorces. . . . The May Architectural Digest has a house-vs.-home piece by Maya Angelou, in which the dissolution of her last marriage is chronicled through the houses they shared. Also, the Digest visits both the New York pied-a-terre and the Beverly Hills house of Winona Ryder, the young star of "Reality Bites." Not very slacker digs, I'll tell you that much. . . . Madonna is on the cover of the May Harper's Bazaar, for a brief story she wrote about Martha Graham, who would have been 100 this month. Alas, her much touted affection for basketball players figures largely into the piece: "It's gotten to the point where I'm happy to watch NBA players simply walk down a hallway. They don't even have to be doing anything; their accomplishments, their talent, and their energy make their most pedestrian activities mesmerizing. You know that they've just done something great, or that they're about to." David Letterman, are you listening?

A new issue of Agni is out. Among many, many other pieces, there are stories from Ntozake Shange and Debra Spark, essays from Caryl Phillips, William Corbett and Marjorie Agosin, and poems from William Logan, James Laughlin, Amiri Baraka and Lucie Brock-Broido, who contributes the best title: "Everybody Has a Heart, Except Some People."

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