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Why is this woman smiling?


By Hillary Rodham Clinton

Simon & Schuster, $28, 528 pp

One million copies of Living History have been printed. Hillary Rodham Clinton has recorded an abridged audio version. Foreign rights have been sold in 16 countries. In the week her book came out, Time magazine featured the New York senator and former first lady on its cover, running an excerpt from her book and an interview; the Today show featured several interviews with her, and Barbara Walters and Larry King both ran television specials talking to her about the book. The 528-page book immediately shot up to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This week Clinton is still out promoting the book at signings across the country _ and will be throughout the summer.

Amid all this media hype, much of the commentary about Living History, predictably enough, has run along partisan lines. The Hillary-haters have used it to bash her. Hillary-promoters have used it to praise her. "To label Living History as merely boring would be to owe a groveling apology to Bill Bradley," wrote Weekly Standard's Matt Labash. The Nation's Katha Pollitt, who has been highly critical of the first lady, wrote that the book has that "unfortunate, processed cheese, as-told-to-taste," but as a feminist she couldn't resist pointing out that it is also a great advertisement for the pro-Hillary camp: "One hears so much from people who hate Hillary, we forget that millions think she's great, a self-made working wife and mother who actually managed to turn the routine subordination _ and, in her case, profound humiliations _ of political wifehood into real power."

Even the more objective reviews of the book don't agree on what Hillary ends up revealing about herself in her supposedly tell-all book. In the two reviews on this page, for example, a very different Hillary emerges. One, more sympathetic, finds a "softer, more humane Hillary" in Living History. The other, more cynical, sees a glam girl, struggling to shed her wonk image.

Meanwhile, one question still lingers: Is Living History worth reading?

The answer apparently depends on which Hillary Rodham Clinton you end up finding in all that processed cheese.