Girl, Interrupted

These days, Monica's not exactly sure if she's about Girl Power or telling the country she's sorry for being bad. The confusion is understandable: one thing Monica's Story makes clear is that few people could have endured the surreal year she did, the most emblematic moment of which was having her car rammed on an L.A. freeway by photographers looking for a photo op, or maybe hoping that she'd follow Morton's previous bio-subject, Princess Di, into immortality. The casual murderousness of the media pales, though, compared to the tale related in the last third of the book, of Lewinsky's treatment at the hands of Ken Starr's merry band of federally funded thugs, whose legally dubious harassment of her family and friends included threats of 27 years in prison for Monica, or to sic the IRS on Dad and imprison Mom if Lewinsky didn't cooperate. There's also a strong case made that Linda Tripp maneuvered Monica to pressure Clinton on the job front, then selectively recorded the conversations that provided Starr with the rationale to expand his jurisdiction into the Paula Jones case. The degree of before-the-fact collusion between Starr, Tripp, and the Jones team has yet to be fully investigated; Lewinsky's account of her legal ordeals should also raise questions about the grand jury system itself, whose methods here resembled nothing so much as a medieval heretic trial, with the examiners set on probing not just facts, but deep into the condition of the sinner's soul. Your tax dollars at work.

Of course, Lewinsky continues to splay herself on the public examining table, as though more exposure were the cure for overexposure. Given her legal bills, there are obvious financial imperatives, but after a year of being forced to tell all, it seems that now she can't stop, like some Skinnerian lab experiment gone wrong. Not unlike the nation, though, all Monica really did was succumb to the charms of a larger-than-life figure beset by contradictions. Monica says she's over Bill. For the rest of us, it's going to take longer: charisma, even as flawed as Clinton's version may be, is a precious quantity, and like girls in love, we seize it where we find it, and don't easily let go.

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