Here’s an essay topic to discuss: People aren’t normally the best biographers of themselves, and politicians especially not. That is, it takes a certain self-obsession to make a real go of it in politics, and that’s not really compatible with a capacity to stand back and understand yourself and the era you played a role in shaping. Self-analysis needs distance, and distance is fatal in politics.

That could be the reason why The Costello Memoirs is one of the least-enthralling reads in years. It might also have something to do with it being co-written. Co-written memoirs don’t have a good track record. The best example is LBJ’s The Vantage Point, which was mostly ghost-written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and which manages to reduce one of the most outsized figures in US political history to a rather drab cardboard cut-out politician.