Avlon, John P.
AVLON, John P.
Male. Education: Yale University, graduated, 1996.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harmony Books, 299 Park Ave., New York, NY 10171-0002.
Staffer on President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign; Rudy Giuliani administration, New York, NY, began as speechwriter, became deputy communications director; served on staff of various New York City commissions, including Y2K Commission, Bilingual Education Task Force, City Hall Park Restoration Committee, and 2001 Charter Revision Commission; New York Sun, New York, NY, columnist and associate editor. Prides Crossing Executive Communication, president. Former lecturer at Yale University and Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; adjunct lecturer at Hunter College, New York. Left, Right and Center, National Public Radio, alternate host; guest on various news programs.
Independent Nation: How Centrism Is Changing the Face of American Politics, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to Empire City: New York through the Centuries, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and David S. Dunbar, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
John P. Avlon has worked for two of the most successful political centrists of the 1990s, former president Bill Clinton and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the latter whom he served as deputy communications director. Avlon brings the knowledge gleaned from this political experience, as well as from his studies in American political history, to his first book, Independent Nation: How Centrism Is Changing the Face of American Politics. Independent Nation contains short biographies of roughly two dozen American mayors, governors, and presidents whom Avlon defines as having a "centrist" outlook. The selected politicians include former presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter; Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura; current president George W. Bush; and Avlon's former employers, Clinton and Giuliani. The politicians whom Avlon includes are generally well known, but, as Booklist contributor Allen Weakland noted, Avlon's biographical essays are "full of new insights about stories we thought we already knew." His sketch of Carter received particular praise from a Kirkus Reviews critic, who called it "right on the money."
As many critics noted, any definition of centrism that encompasses such a diverse set of political actors must be extremely broad. In fact, Library Journal reviewer Thomas J. Baldino suggested that "what the author thinks he's describing as centrism is actually moderation, compromise, and tolerance." Still, Baldino praised the book as "a good read." Another common criticism of Independent Nation is that, in the words of a New York Post critic, "in his blanket devotion to consensus and incremental change, Avlon gives short shrift to crusaders for new and better ideas, those who stick to their principles despite political realities," such as activists who spoke out against slavery and segregation at times when substantial majorities of the American population supported those institutions. "Still," the critic continued, "Independent Nation provides a compelling distillation of recent political history through the prism of Centrist politics."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2004, Allen Weakland, review of Independent Nation: How Centrism Is Changing the Face of American Politics, p. 812.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2003, review of Independent Nation, p. 1431.
Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Thomas J. Baldino, review of Independent Nation, p. 108.
New York Post, April 18, 2004, review of Independent Nation, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, December 22, 2003, review of Independent Nation, p. 44.
Independent Nation Web site,http://www.independentnation.org/ (August 27, 2004).*