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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 02:41 GMT 03:41 UK
Chilly reviews greet Clinton memoirs
Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life, has broken pre-release sales records - but not all those who read the book ahead of Tuesday's launch in the US were impressed.

Bill Clinton's autobiography
The book has had the largest first printing in history

Mr Clinton remains a deeply polarising political figure in the United States, and the reaction to his memoirs echoes the partisan passions he elicited while in office.

But partisan politics aside, the book is playing to varied reviews.

Mr Clinton is the man that conservatives love to hate. To them, he represents all of the self-indulgent, self-centred excesses of the Baby Boomer generation.

To his Democratic party, Mr Clinton remains their star, standard-bearer and fundraiser-in-chief.

"As a core of Democratic partisans cheer the return of their champion, Bill Clinton, to the limelight in time to pitch in on the campaign trail, many of his old antagonists are gearing up again," David Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times.

'Radioactive figure'

During the first prime-time interview to promote the book, Mr Kirkpatrick noted that conservative lobby group Citizens United ran an advertisement claiming that Mr Clinton was responsible for not preventing the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Conservative talk show host and professional Clinton critic Rush Limbaugh has taken to calling the memoirs "My Lie".

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote: "There is no cultural ceasefire for the 57-year-old Democrat who left office less than four years ago."

And Mr Kurtz quotes historian Douglas Brinkley as saying, "Bill Clinton is still a radioactive figure."

Chilly reviews, brisk sales

Early reviews have not been kind.

Award-winning book critic Michiko Kakutani wrote a scathing review in the New York Times calling the book "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull".

In a line that will cheer Clinton's harshest political critics, she wrote: "In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr Clinton's presidency: Lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration."

It devolves into a hodgepodge of jottings: part policy primer, part 12-step confessional, part stump speech and part presidential archive, all, it seems, hurriedly written and even more hurriedly edited.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

John Harris of the Washington Post said Mr Clinton often complained during his presidency that his personal battles with his political foes overshadowed his policies and political accomplishments.

During his presidency, Mr Clinton thought it in his political best interest not to feed the insatiable interest in his private life.

"As author, he and his publisher have decided that their interests lie in revelations about adultery, marital crisis and coping with the adult consequences of childhood dysfunction," Mr Harris writes.

And the book suffers from it, he adds.

"Some Clinton aides who read advance copies of the book concluded that the half about his youth and pre-presidency was told with more flair and evocative detail than the half about his presidency, which was written this spring under the pressure of an approaching deadline," Mr Harris wrote, echoing common criticism in early reviews.

But the book is still generating intense interest.

Publisher Alfred A Knopf has already sold the first printing of 1.5m copies and more.

And as Alyson Ward wrote in the Miami Herald, "Love him or hate him, you won't be able to avoid Bill Clinton this week."

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"The New York Times has called this book sloppy, self-indulgent and eye-crossingly dull"

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