Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Teaching the Pig to Dance by Fred Thompson

Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances
What do a former senator and former rock star, Pat Benatar, have in common? They both stayed classy and refused to dish up nasty gossip about their colleagues in their autobiographies. Thompson's book wasn't exactly what I was expecting when I spotted it on the library shelves. I thought Fred would use some ink to talk about his failed presidential campaign and really hammer home some conservative talking points, but instead he spent his time talking about how growing up in a small town formed his personality and ideals.

Thompson grew up in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where he enjoyed the simple pleasures and got into the minor scrapes and scraps that are familiar to most of us in flyover country. His grandparents moved there around the time of the Great Depression, and adopted the philosophy that hard work and a bit of luck were enough to get by on, in our land of opportunity.

While not a spectacular student, Thompson did well enough in his classes to get accepted at law school, and when he graduated he hung up his shingle with a partner, performing small town law, mostly defending DUIs and handling divorces and wills. Whenever opportunity knocked, he took on the challenge, and eventually was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served for eight years. He also began a career as an actor in movies and on tv, playing a prosecuting attorney on the series Law and Order. In 2000, he threw his hat in the ring in the presidential primaries, but was eliminated fairly early from being a contender.

This is the kind of book where you feel like you're sitting around the fireplace in Thompson's family room, while he relates a few anecdotes, sprinkled with a wry humor, and a self deprecation that's quite charming.

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