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The Woman at the Washington Zoo: Writings on Politics, Family, and Fate

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  688 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Beloved by readers and critics nationwide, The Woman at the Washington Zoo collects Marjorie Williams's brilliant writings-from sharp political profiles to witty commentary on gender and family life to tender, intensely personal explorations of illness and loss. A Washington Post columnist and contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Marjorie wrote political portraits that came ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published November 6th 2005)
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What to say now that I've finished this book. I've been reading it slowly, using it as my "appointment" book sometimes, since it can be broken up easily.

This is a wonderful compilation of the author's writings, put together posthumously by her husband, Thomas Noah, also a writer. The first section consists primarily of a series of profiles of Washington, D.C. movers and shakers of various stripes. The second is essays on daily life and people large and small that Williams encountered in her work
Max Gordon
Jan 12, 2011 Max Gordon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I originally wrote this in 2008 BBO (before Barack Obama), back when the clamor for Hillary Clinton to concede the race for the presidential nomination was growing bitter and shrill, and I found myself wondering what my friend Marjorie Williams would think. Now Senator Obama is President Obama, and more than ever I wish I could hear her incisive commentary of the state of the Union, so I have revised it to fit the new year and new administration.

* * *

Without a doubt the most brilliant person, ba
Oct 23, 2007 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of her own strengths as a writer, Williams observes at some point that she is better at studies of character than mappings of plot. This is not exactly true; it's amazing how propulsive and engrossing her character studies can be, and how they seem to enfold decades of plot within them. This book collects Williams' shrewd but understanding profiles of remote political figures like Barbara Bush, Vernon Jordan, and Al Gore, as well as shorter personal essays on her family life. The last set of ess ...more
Sep 18, 2009 Tonya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was excited about this book initially. It is the collected works of Marjorie Williams, a former Washington Post political correspondent, who recently died from cancer. I loved the dedication to the book, which quotes the poem "The Woman at The Washington Zoo" and draws similarities between Washington D.C. and a zoo :-) That was the best part of the book though.

If you do pick up this book, skip the entire first section unless reveling in memories of the 1990s political scene is your idea of fu
Ellen Keim
Dec 28, 2013 Ellen Keim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of Marjorie Williams until I ran across this book, probably because she mainly wrote about Washington, D.C. politics and for publications like The Washington Post and Vanity Fair, which I never read. Now I'm sorry that I hadn't been introduced to her before.

This book was published posthumously by Williams' husband. It contains a sampling of her writings on a variety of topics, including the excellent "Hit By Lightning: A Cancer Memoir."

Because Williams died of liver cancer whe
Excellent read. The political pieces on Barbara Bush and the Clinton/Gore relationship unraveling are top notch. Damn, Marjorie, you could write.


Marjorie. You made me cry. The pieces about dying from cancer are devastating. But beautiful. I have been down this road with a friend. She also left children behind. I was blown away by the similarities in your thoughts and worries. The unfairness of it all.

Ef you, cancer.
Eric Kelderman
Aug 01, 2007 Eric Kelderman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Williams is the consummate profile writer who bring to life an entire panorama of details like the great Flemish renaissance painters. Her political portraits are brilliant and nuanced -- and best of all she doesn't take the conventional wisdom, so to speak, of the Washington press corps' for anything more than what it really is.
Hank Stuever
Oct 16, 2012 Hank Stuever rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think a day goes by at the Washington Post, even now, where someone doesn't remember a Marjorie Williams piece and wish she was still here.
Feb 21, 2017 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
collection of writings of Williams a long time journalist commenting on politics, family and fate
Apr 18, 2016 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It was published over ten years ago and includes columns written as early as 1988 but like all excellent writing it absolutely stands the test of time. I lived my first 33 years in the suburbs of the greatest city (Washington DC!) so some of this was nostalgia for me. I don't remember reading Marjorie Williams in the pages of the Washington Post (or other publications) but I wish I had. The profiles in the book are fascinating. Most notably I enjoyed re ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing in this book is 5-star and literary. You can read more about the book in other places, that the author died of cancer and this book was published later, a sampling of her wise and elegant writings.

I found it a little hard to get excited about this book when I started reading, and I don't know why. I skipped a story here and there, scanned some, and read some with relish. Soon I settled in and read. The book is divided into Profiles, Essays, and personal writings of the author's life
May 16, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This compilation of published and unpublished articles was compiled posthumously by Williams' husband following the writer's failed struggle with liver cancer. Divided into three parts, the volume begins with a number of political profiles Williams wrote for the Washington Post during the George H. Bush and Clinton years. Though I found many of the details of these pieces fascinating (they certainly showcase Williams' eye for character and nuance), this section of the book doesn't really stand t ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Lormac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my "to read" list for a long, long time, so I was delighted when a book club friend passed it along to me.

This is the kind of book you might buy and have sitting around your house for a year or so (or have installed on your ebook for a year or so). It is not a book to be consumed in one sitting. The book is divided into three sections - the first provides the reader with the political profiles for which Marjorie Williams was best known; the second section leads the reader i
Bonnie Brody
Mar 07, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing and wonderful book. It is also poignantly sad because the author, Marjorie Williamson, died recently from liver cancer. This book was put together posthumously by her husband, Tim Noah, who is a reporter for the online magazine

The book is formatted as a collection of essays. Ms. Williamson spent many of her years in the D.C. area as a reporter and formed close and intimate relationships with many of the movers and shakers in politics. Many of the essays are about po
gwen g
Feb 04, 2008 gwen g rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No words for how utterly impressed I am with Marjorie Williams' writing, her honesty and class in the face of the worst life could offer her -- an early death. The first third of the book is long profiles, fascinating and personal and rendered beautifully, so she had me hooked into her work as a journalist from the start. I was already eating out of her hand by the time she got to the shorter pieces about Bill Clinton and feminism in the second section; by the third section's personal essays, so ...more
Becca Chopra
Sep 16, 2010 Becca Chopra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to editor Timothy Noah, for compiling this collection of his deceased wife's writings - a legacy of getting to the heart of the matter, whether the topic is why feminists didn't flinch at Clinton's flagrant womanizing, to her own unflinching fight against liver cancer.

The book has three sections:
1) Profiles of Washington Insiders, that could have been dry if written by another, but instead sparkle with insights into personality, behind-the-scenes machinations, and human drama;
2) Essays, i
Sep 26, 2012 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
"Sadly Sabato and Garment are both persuasive in arguing that a majority of talented reporters would rather write about personalities and peccadilloes than face the difficulty of writing about government with sophistication and depth." pg. 178

This quote jumped out at me as Norman Dorsen maneuver. Professor Dorsen often says of Mr. X: "Mr. X said about Mr. Y The same could be said of Mr. X." This quote in the book could be said of Williams. That said . . .

Marjorie Williams wrote some brilliant a
Jun 18, 2009 Eleanore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent collection of political profiles, essays and insights by the late Marjorie Williams of the Washington Post and Vanity Fair, combining all the best elements of criticism, humor and human sympathy. Covering predominantly the years of the Reagan Presidency, Bush '41, and President Clinton, her works bring to life the environment and the actors of the significant political events of my adolescence. These profiles provide intriguing context for the late and oft-lamented era of the 90s, n ...more
Mar 11, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to agree with the review on the back of the book that it is a great tragedy that this lovely woman and great writer died so early in her life and career. She could have written and done so much more! But I think her husband did a great service to her by publishing this anthology. I was interested most in the political character essays, but enjoyed the second part (random essays, book reviews, emails, etc.) more. I said I wasn't going to read the third part (about her life after her termin ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Johanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an anthology of writings by Marjorie Williams who died of cancer in 2005 at the age of 47. She wrote for a number of publications including The Washington Post and Slate. The first section compiles her lengthy profiles of political figures. They were interesting to me because they detailed people I had heard of but did not know much about because they were major players just before I became politically aware (early 1990s). The second section includes shorter pieces on many topics. I espe ...more
Feb 16, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some pretty great profiles of political figures (some I knew and some I didn't) in the first section - profiles; some great essays some meh essays in the second section - essays; the third section had me crying out loud (not something I think I have ever done while reading a book. The third section was essays all dealing with the time from when she was diagnosed with stage IV(b) liver cancer in 2001 to just before her death in 2005. Her frank way of dealing with everything, from insensitive doct ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Alanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot rave enough about these essays. I don’t always agree with Williams’ politics but she always gives you plenty to think about and she fully explores a topic rather than just writing your usual journalistic dribble of half-truths and catchy, pithy phrases. Her essay about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was perhaps the best I ever read (and she’s a liberal feminist!). While her political essays are wonderful, it’s actually the personal essays that really get me—Williams has great insight ...more
Shonna Froebel
Nov 21, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This collection of writing by the journalist Marjorie Williams is divided into three sections. The first section is a selection of her writing on politics in Washington, D.C. and has very interesting insights into a variety of players. The second section is a collection of essays, many of them previously published in the Washington Post. They are about her life, her family, and insights into life in general and really show her intelligence. The last section is about her experience with cancer (w ...more
Oct 18, 2008 Joan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear, I don't want to start giving all sorts of books five stars. But this book was a truly amazing collection of essays, both political and personal. Marjorie Williams wrote for the Washington Post during the 80s and early 90s. She had me absorbed in reading about people I otherwise wouldn't care about (Jeb Bush, Clinton & Gore's relationship)--her writing and perspective were what kept me reading. The essay on her cancer diagnosis (in 2001) was devastating--I had to read it over a few e ...more
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marjorie Williams' premature death really left a hole in the universe of fabulous women columnists. This is a sampling of some her best stuff, lovingly edited by her husband, Timothy Noah of Slate. She's a great profile writer, an incisive columnist who can marry the world of family and the world of public policy without trying, and an unrelenting truth-teller. This book includes her account of her battle with liver cancer - she ultimately died of it in 2005 - and she writes with a candor that m ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I bought this book because I liked the title and the cover. I should have recognized Marjorie Williams's name, and once I began reading, I certainly recognized her writing. This book is heartbreakingly, challengingly, inspiringly real. I dogeared two dozen pages to which I will now return for closer inspection or the pleasure of rereading certain turns of phrase and passages.

Gradydon Carter, editor at Vanity Fair is quoted on the book jacket, ". . .As a journa
Sallie Gouverneur
Oct 10, 2007 Sallie Gouverneur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any working mother, anyone interested in journalism, anyone with a heart
heartbreaking and fine, excellent writing from a Washington journalist who got cancer and lived more years than all the experts said she would; it is divided into three parts, the first a series of sharp profiles of Washington types, the second essays on culture, feminism, working parenthood and such, the third pieces written about life with cancer (this description does not do the last third justice). Funny, rueful, intensely loving and incredibly brave (and I would say the same about her journ ...more
Mar 08, 2009 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This collection of essays involves different themes: politics, Washington DC celebrities, relationships, parenthood, and death. As with any collection of essays, some resonated with me more than others. But, it was very interesting to read her essays about people like Jeb Bush, Clarence Thomas, Monica Lewinsky and think about how perceptions of them may have changed (or not). What would she have written about Sarah Palin?

Her essays about parenthood and about her response to her diagnosis of canc
Jul 15, 2013 Geraldine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: metro-book, 2013
While I liked some of the political/Washington essays more than others (the opener on the Cafritz probate fight and the piece on the disintegration of the Clinton/Gore relationship post-Monica were both great and fun to read on the Metro; the excerpts of the Slate Book Club exchanges were even more annoying than just reading Slate online while bored, which is saying a lot), Williams's best writing was absolutely her personal reflections on her children, particularly the lightning bug piece on he ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elisa Camahort
The Woman at the Washington Zoo is an anthology of Marjorie Williams writings lovingly edited by her husband, Tim Noah. The first section contains some very astute profiles of political figures. There are shorter essays with ruminations on politics, ethics, family and feminism. The last section is the most profound and touching in which she writes about living with terminal cancer.

Her writings about her illness is would be affecting in any context but since we have come to know her wit, warmth a
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