By Amy Chozick. (Harper, 375 pages, $27.99.)
Regrets, she’s had a few.
“Chasing Hillary,” a campaign diary, offers plenty of clues on why Hillary Clinton failed to become president, but this road diary is more revealing when author Amy Chozick focuses on her own shortcomings and how her desire to please her bosses at the New York Times and land on the front page could take precedent over being the best journalist she could be.
Readers have traveled the campaign trail before, most notably in Timothy Crouse’s “The Boys on the Bus,” but rarely has a reporter been so willing to confess their sins that range from asking stupid questions to shoveling dirt.
Not that Clinton’s team emerges unscathed. Chozick uses not-so-affectionate nicknames and notes from late-night cocktail conversations to paint a picture of overworked, self-centered aides unprepared for both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
But Chozick aims her most withering criticism at herself. You’ll feel sympathy every time she checks into a low-rent motel or is relegated to another lunch from Panera Bread, but she’s quick to confess how much her complicated feelings for Clinton could override her duties to report all the news that’s fit to print.
Those revelations may not sit well with her colleagues at the New York Times, but those looking for a raw, brutally honest examination of a reporter’s life will be riveted.
By Thomas McGuane. (Alfred A. Knopf, 576 pages, $35.)
“Cloudbursts,’’ Thomas McGuane’s new short story collection, is in ways retrospective and also a declaration that the Montana author, at age 78, remains among rarefied company at the crest of American fiction.
In 1971, after McGuane followed his razzmatazz debut novel, “The Sporting Club,’’ with “The Bushwhacked Piano,’’ critic Jonathan Yardley in the New York Times labeled him a “virtuoso,’’ “Faulknerian,’’ and “a writer of the first magnitude.”
The stories in “Cloudbursts’’ vary widely in tone and style from those earlier writings. But even seen through a rearview mirror that reaches back decades, Yardley’s commendation for McGuane’s work holds up.
His deft knack for tale-spinning is why. Beguiled, often, by circumstances quite beyond their understanding, and certainly outside their control, McGuane’s characters buck head-down into the wind nonetheless, with hilarity ensuing or, inverting the prism, pathos. “I was clawing for volition,’’ said luckless Earl, a two-bit banker whose voice narrates “Crow Fair,’’ “and tried to develop a personal algorithm that would predict the date I would be fired all over again. I developed a garish fantasy life for what my last stop would be and came up with cleaning porta-potties at Ozzfest.’’
Writing from the West, and about it, in an authentic way is McGuane’s brand. Like his late pal, Jim Harrison, he has eschewed academia’s safe harbor for what could be called a life, wherein the physical world — ranching, fishing, hunting, riding — is regularly celebrated over the humdrum navel-gazing that too often is literary fiction’s soft underbelly.
All but seven of the 45 stories in “Cloudbursts’’ have been previously published, either in books, in the New Yorker or elsewhere. Gathered here as a lifetime collection, these short stories are a masterful addition to the form.