Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue.
The first woman to co-anchor a Chicago weeknight newscast, Jane Pauley was only 24 when she joined NBC's WMAQ-TV in 1974. In 1976, she began a 13-year tenure with NBC's "Today" show and, in 1992, when NBC News launched "Dateline' she served as co-anchor. Obviously at ease before a camera, this clean-cut Midwesterner appears warm, sincere, and wholesome. Critics termed her authentic and genuine, describing her as "a natural" This is the Pauley viewers know.
Yet, there is another Pauley--a quiet, introverted, somewhat meek individual. "I am not sure I understand the contradiction," she notes. Although realizing she has reached the top of an extremely competitive profession, Pauley feels her life has "stretched credulity." When she began at "Today" with Tom Brokaw, she opened with the line, "Maybe you are wondering how I got here--and maybe t am, too" She was searching for something missing in her life. She recognized a relationship between growing up as a "nervous child" and, 40 years later, an EKG tape that her doctor interpreted as the "tension of 20 women." Her body was telling her something and she began a search for that something.
The search started "eight or 10 years ago" as she transcribed her random thoughts and ideas. She called the process "skywriting" because her fingers seemed to have their own agenda; the writing progressed "unconsciously" as if the ideas were coming "out of the blue" Although much of the book deals with these ramblings, the section of most importance to the author concerns her first significant illness. In 2001, Pauley found out she suffered from bipolar disorder (manic-depression) Type III--a condition that can come "out of the blue"; in fact, the discovery accidentally resulted from treatment for hives.
Pauley decided to include her bipolar experience as an opportunity to help others. She describes the causes and symptoms, her mental state and experiences as a patient at a psychiatric clinic, and a physician's description of the disorder. She also identifies support groups and educational resources.
Autobiographical on two levels, the book provides personal details about her years in elementary school, high school, and college (very little about college). She describes her relationship with her parents (in great detail) and her sister (not enough). She mentions that she married "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau in June, 1980, and that they honeymooned in Paris; however, readers learn nothing of their life together. Pauley and Trudeau have three children, the first two (twins) now are in college--but she relates very little about the intervening years.
Pauley maintains that Skywriting is about discovery, and in writing the book, she discovered several things for which she had been searching. The writing, obviously a catharsis for her, could have been more enlightening, however. Pauley admits that she has attempted to protect her privacy for the last 30 years, and she revealed as much as she did in this book only to help others. Readers, though, will feel there is much more to know. Pauley herself asks rhetorically, "Who knows what is next to come out of the blue?" A second, more enlightening book perhaps?
RAYMOND L FISCHER
Mass Media Editor