PERSONAL: Married Jack Gordon.
ADDRESSES: Home—FL and Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Indiana University Press, 601 North Morton St., Bloomington, IN 47404.
CAREER: Journalist. Former political reporter for Washington Post. Member of board of directors, St. Francis Center Community, Washington, DC.
The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politics and Marriage, Putnam (New York, NY), 1975.
Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984, updated edition, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2001.
She Came to Live out Loud: An Inspiring Family Journey through Illness, Loss, and Grief, Scribner (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor to magazines and the Internet.
SIDELIGHTS: Myra MacPherson, former political reporter for the Washington Post, has written books on a variety of political themes. Her first, The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politics and Marriage, looks candidly at the personal lives of political couples throughout U.S. history. Through her research and interviews, MacPherson discovers that while partners in political marriages handle the stress of long work hours and the public eye differently, commonalities surface. The author contends that politicians, being often egocentric, make difficult partners, while their spouses are often lonely and left at home to raise children. Covering such topics as divorces, campaigning spouses versus the stay-at-home types, and campaign-trail groupies, the author details several relationships that succeed despite their political confines. Citing Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson and former Michigan Congresswoman Martha Griffiths and her husband, Hicks, she adds that these couples are the exception.
Some critics believed that MacPherson was off target in her analyses of the primarily male politician's mind. Jane O'Reilly, for example, wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "The trouble with the book is that the author, in defiance of her own research, believes that unhappy political marriages could be happy if politics changed. But some men do not wish to be home taking walks in the woods." Writing in the Washington Post Book World, a reviewer observed, "Most politicians come out of this … reporter's irresistible expose looking power-mad, shallow, and narcissistic and their long-suffering wives loyally dishonest."
MacPherson's Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation focuses on the complex war and its effect on those Americans who came of age during the 1960s and 1970s. She interviewed more than five hundred people for the book, including veterans and their parents, deserters, psychologists, and historians, whose voices she uses to vividly portray the experiences of those most affected during and after the war. She also devotes a section to people who avoided the war in Vietnam, punctuating how America's poor fought this war. Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Jack Beatty commented that the author "does justice to an extraordinary range of experience and emotion. Rage, shame, battle lust, a dark rainbow of guilt and regret and grief—these are just a few of the feelings that Myra MacPherson elicits from the veterans with the kind of skillful emphatic questioning a master psychologist might envy. There have been many books on the Vietnam War, but few have captured its second life as memory better than Long Time Passing." An updated version of the book was published in 2001, after which MacPherson went on a speaking tour to universities to discuss Vietnam.
In She Came to Live out Loud: An Inspiring Family Journey through Illness, Loss, and Grief MacPherson details the illness of Anna Johannessen, a middle-aged woman from Maryland who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 at age thirty-seven. MacPherson takes a political angle in her story, using the woman's eventual death to explain how Americans deal with sickness and death. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "MacPherson occasionally gushes in her praise of Anna and her family, but she succeeds in bringing readers into the dying woman's intimate world and in conveying everyone's grief." Bette-Lee Fox, writing in the Library Journal, asserted that "this thoughtful and moving portrait conveys death and grieving as positive, life-affirming processes." New York Times Book Review contributor Sara Ivry concluded that She Came to Live out Loud is "a rich description of an optimistic, charismatic woman who stubbornly refused to allow illness to run her life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1998, Danise Hoover, review of She Came to Live out Loud: An Inspiring Family Journey through Illness, Loss, and Grief, p. 708.
Chicago Tribune, April 16, 2002, Mike Conklin, "Vietnam Packing 'Em in on Campus," p. 1.
Library Journal, January, 1999, Bette-Lee Fox, review of She Came to Live out Loud, p. 131.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 10, 1984, Elizabeth Janeway, review of Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, pp. 1, 7.
Nation, June 23, 1984, p. 763.
National Review, December 19, 1975, Anne Crutcher, review of The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politics and Marriage, pp. 1489-1490.
New York Times, June 24, 1984, Donald Knox, review of Long Time Passing, p. 9.
New York Times Book Review, November 30, 1975, Jane O'Reilly, review of The Power Lovers, pp. 8, 17; May 9, 1999, Sara Ivry, review of She Came to Live out Loud, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1999, review of She Came to Live out Loud, p. 81.
Washingtonian, May, 1999, p. 50.
Washington Post Book World, August 31, 1975, review of The Power Lovers, p. 1; June 3,1984, Jack Beatty, review of Long Time Passing, pp. 1, 14.