State Sen. Philip Baruth to discuss Leahy biography


BENNINGTON — Author and state legislator Philip Baruth will be reading from and discussing his biography "Senator Leahy: A Life in Scenes" Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Bennington College Center for the Advancement of Public Action. The talk, organized by the Bennington Bookshop, is free and open to the public.

Baruth's book follows the remarkable political career of Leahy, who ascended to the U.S. Senate in 1974 at the age of 34 and is now the longest-serving member of that institution.

"If any reader comes to this biography in search of a comprehensive history of his important committee work or votes cast, he or she will be bitterly disappointed," Baruth writes in the introduction. "On that score, a much better book than mine remains to be written. Instead, I have contented myself here with telling a sequence of targeted stories, a chronological selection meant to capture most of the eventful life of my subject, but also to cast light on a larger argument about the America we inhabit now."

Baruth, a Chittenden County state senator and English professor at the University of Vermont, was already a published novelist when he became drawn to Leahy's story after being surprised by the Vermont senior senator's cameo appearance in "The Dark Knight." In that film, The Joker, played by Heath Ledger, threatens Leahy's character, who stands his ground.

"It was a truly amazing moment," Baruth writes, "when set against the long arc of Leahy's political career: the very same Top Cop image that Leahy had developed as a young Chittenden County state's attorney now being explicitly deployed by a major Hollywood director to a worldwide audience."

Baruth, currently the chairman of Senate Education, was first elected to the Senate in 2010. Prior to that, he spent a dozen years as an award-winning commentator for Vermont Public Radio. His novel "The X President," a darkly comic take on the life and legacy of Bill Clinton, became a New York Times Notable Book in 2003. The Brothers Boswell, his most recent novel, was listed as one of the Best Books of 2009 by The Washington Post.


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