Mark Feeney's book is a difficult work to describe. At its core it provides its readers with an analysis of Richard Nixon's cinephilia, the consequences of which Feeney gleans in order to explain various aspects of Nixon's psychology. This he does in a series of interconnected chapter-length essays, the majority of which are built around a particular film Nixon watched during his time as president. Feeney uses his examination of these movies as a springboard for an extended exploration into specific aspects of Nixon's life and career, such as his relationship with Ronald Reagan or his time in Congress. Drawing upon his background as a film critic, he weaves together his examination into a study of the films themselves and their related works, which he breaks down not just to draw out the elements that relate to Nixon's life but to illuminate the America in which he lived.
The result is an engrossing read. Though Feeney provides no new details about Nixon's life or his time in office, he draws out connections that deepen our understanding of the man and provide some interesting interpretations of his character. It also has the effect of humanizing the 37th president in a way that that few other books have before, showing how, at his core, Nixon was a person who enjoyed losing himself in movies as much as anyone else. While this is not the first book people should seek out to learn about Richard Nixon, the originality of Feeney's approach and the insights it provides make it one that nobody seeking to make sense of the man can afford to neglect.