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From Condoleezza Rice, Tales of Diplomacy and Unrequited Love

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Condoleezza Rice

MUSE OF MUAMMAR: Condoleezza Rice’s “Democracy” is new on the hardcover nonfiction list, at No. 4, and plenty of observers have already commented on its sober, high-minded rhetoric about America’s role in the world. So I’ll dish instead. Who knew that during Rice’s days as secretary of state, the former Libyan strongman Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was besotted with her? “I support my darling black African woman,” he said of Rice during a 2007 interview with the network Al Jazeera. “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders.” He added: “Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. … I love her very much.” So when Rice included Tripoli on a visit to the Middle East the following year, there were some decidedly uncomfortable undercurrents in her meeting with Qaddafi. “It had been a really strange trip,” she writes, setting aside her usual diplomacy. “I awoke with that sensation one has after a bizarre dream. Did I really just sit in his kitchen and have dinner with his female security guards who many believe are also his daughters? Did he really give me a video — with pictures of me set to music — called ‘Black Flower in the White House’? O.K. Whatever his weird affection for you, thank the Lord, that visit is over. Time to move on.”

SQUIRREL! Judging from the stories we tell about dogs, American society is goofier than it used to be. Our dog novels in the past were solemn affairs about heroism and violence and death, from “White Fang” to “Old Yeller” to “Where the Red Fern Grows.” (They were also, clearly, determined to mention colors in their titles.) Today, we have W. Bruce Cameron and his wholesome, vaguely spiritual dog-narrated books. Cameron has spent nearly a year on the paperback fiction lists with “A Dog’s Purpose” (the basis for the movie), about canine reincarnation and the meaning of life. Now he returns with “A Dog’s Way Home,” at No. 10 in hardcover fiction, about a pit bull trekking through 400 miles of wilderness to reunite with her human — basically, “The Incredible Journey” minus the distracting cat and retriever. As in “A Dog’s Purpose,” the narrator here has an ingénue’s dopey cheer far removed from the somber nobility of a White Fang. But (speaking as a dog owner myself) that doesn’t mean Cameron gets it wrong. “As we walked we found a squirrel! It lay flattened on the pavement and gave off amazing odors,” his narrator exclaims. “I knew that what I should do now was roll my shoulder into the squirrel.”

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