Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book review: "Outside the Box: A Memoir" by Lynn Sherr

Lynn Sherr seems like an awfully nice person, so it pains me to say this: Her memoir is just so-so.

Oh, it's not a bad book. Sherr includes some interesting stories of breaking into the male-dominated world of journalism, amusing anecdotes about her work as a correspondent for ABC News and honest tales of her personal life. But Sherr skitters across the surface of most topics giving readers breadth, not depth   and many of her stories are rather tame.

For example, Sherr tells the story of election night 1980 when the microphones of the show's anchors suddenly went dead. The panicked director called on Sherr, who was only supposed to play a supporting role but whose microphone was working, to report some key election returns. After a short while, the technical snafu was fixed and the anchors took the helm again. This is a nice little anecdote but Sherr describes it as "my personal triumph." Really? THAT was her personal triumph?

In another story, from a different election night, she recounts how she earned praise for using a special-effects trick in which graphics seemed to emerge from her desk. Again, an interesting tidbit, but the way she goes on and on about it just reminds us of the shallowness of TV news.

I'm envious, in many ways, of Sherr's career she's traveled the world, met and interviewed notable people, and got to witness historic events. I liked the story of how she scored an exclusive interview with a Soviet poet just because he like blondes, and the story of her driving down the highway the wrong way to get to a space shuttle launch on time. And her descriptions of her and her husband's battles with cancer are heartfelt.

But she clutters up the book with diversions that have nothing to do with her story (it's a memoir, remember). She profiles Geraldine Ferraro, recounts the history of the women's liberation movement and even includes a short biography on her husband's parents. The book could use some editing.

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