Truth like the sun

by Jim Lynch

Hardcover, 2012




New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.


Roger Morgan, the promoter responsible for bringing the World's Fair to Seattle in 1962, runs for mayor in 2001, right after the tech bubble bursts, while budding reporter Helen Gulanos probes his secretive past.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mckait
Everyone was there. Well, almost everyone. Certainly Elvis and LBJ made
appearances. So many people, young and old, the well known and the unknown,
children and grandparents. Everyone wanted to see the Seattle World's Fair.
What was a point of special interest then, and remains so today was the Space Needle.
The tall, spinning, out of this world looking building that went up faster than anyone
believed it could. Maybe there was magic involved, or maybe it was just plain luck.

Everyone who lived in the city of Seattle know his name. Roger Morgan. No, forget that,
Roger was all they needed to hear. He was the young man without whom the Fair would not
have happened. Or, it would not have been as magical and as successful as it had been. He
is the central character whether we are visiting 1962 or 2001. Roger was still well known,
and well loved decades after his enormous accomplishment that changed the way Seattle viewed
itself and was viewed by the rest of the world.

We see him in 1962. He was everywhere, he was the conductor of the orchestra that was The Worlds Fair.
We also see him in 2001 when his is running for the office of Mayor of Seattle. . Has he changed, we
have to wonder? If he has it is a change for the better it seems. No more likeable character has made
an appearance in any book or story that I have read. He is kind and generous and enthusiastic. And he
has decided to run for office. Of course he will win! He is Mr Seattle! Oh that bright enthusiasm for
life. It is as if he cannot imagine anyone being less than he expects them to be. And of course he sees
the best in everyone.

So many characters and each with a story of their own. But only two matter. Most importantly Roger, Mr Seattle.
He matters. Then there is Helen. She is young, ambitious and flawed. Or perhaps damaged is the better word?
Flawed is a smaller word. Everyone has flaws. Even Mr Seattle, if truth be told. But Helen Gulanos was, perhaps,
damaged. Life had been hard for her and she showed the scars. She had enemies. What happens when the two of them come together is the story that is told. And does Helen have any friends? This is one of the questitons answered.
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LibraryThing member nmele
I wanted to love this novel, but frankly I found this tale of wheeling and dealing in politics, real estate and journalism just did not engage me as much as Lynch's first two novels. I did enjoy the complexity and subtlety of Lynch's characters and the ethical standards he evidently treasures.
LibraryThing member elmoelle
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway.
This book is told in two different time periods, but in the same location. The location is Seattle and the time periods are the summer of 2001 and the summer and fall of 1962. In 1962 the World's Fair is going on in Seattle and Roger Morgan is the bright young thing who has spearheaded this event. In 2001, a much older Morgan is running for mayor of Seattle while a reporter named Helen is investigating his past involvement with some of the corruption that was necessary to make the city run.
I really enjoyed thinking about the questions this story raised about the role of journalism in the political process. Technically what Helen writes is the truth, but is it really something the voting public needs to know? Are they losing the best option they have for mayor because of a history that has very little bearing on the present? I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the city of Seattle, which seems to be a microcosm of the both the best and the worst that the American people have to offer.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in journalism or politics as well as anyone who enjoys stories about people seeking to put their own personal history in a larger context.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
As different as this book is from the author’s previous two books, in one way there is continuity: in his advocating that we expand the terrain of our vision to see what is around us; that we don’t get so caught up in the quotidian that we miss all the wonder and beauty and excitement around us every day. And does he ever make a case for the wonder, beauty, and excitement of Seattle!

On this fiftieth anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, Lynch has created a story about the fair’s construction and the main (fictional) visionary behind the scenes, Roger Morgan, age 30 at the time in 1962. Roger, an inspirational speaker, a “mover and a shaker”, a man of ideas, was “the most important guy to have on your side if you wanted to get any civic project off the ground….” And though he had relationships with many women, there was only one true love in his life, and that was Seattle.

The book starts in April, 1962, right before the opening of the fair: "This is when and where it begins, with all the dreamers champagne-drunk and stumbling on the head of the Needle.”

Roger Morgan, “the grand exalted dreamer himself,” is in his heyday, the world his oyster, full of pride in the Space Needle, the Fair, and for what it will do for the city he loves. And he does see it as only the beginning. His best friend Teddy chides him, saying “enough is never enough with you… You can’t get enough of anything,”:

"Roger rubs his cheeks and averts his eyes, wondering if it’s that obvious he’s increasingly driven half-mad by the limitations of having only one life. All the things he’ll never see or do or understand. All the people he’ll never know.”

This is one of the main themes of this book, that any one life does not provide enough time or opportunity. Roger wants to see it all, experience it all, do it all. There will be no passionless mediocrity of growing older for Roger. He is not afraid to let go of the present, and let the change he helps effect carry him in its stream. In fact he is not attached to things; it is his city, Seattle, that he wants to be the showcase of his dreams. With the iconic phallic-shaped Space Needle, he can say to the rest of the country: the New West is just as puissant, and perhaps even more so, since we are still in the process of becoming!

The book alternates between Roger in 1962 and Roger 39 years later, in April, 2001. Now 70, hampered by declining health and energy, watching his old friends die one by one with increasing frequency, he decides to make a “last hurrah” against his diminishing hour glass, and to run for mayor. Indeed, there are quite a few parallels between this and Edwin O’Connor’s classic work, “The Last Hurrah.” Ironically though, in the O’Connor book, it is the growing importance of TV ads for campaigning that so affects the outcome of the race, whereas in this story, it is the dying newspaper that makes a difference.

By 2001, Roger thought he had outrun time and truth, and was still electable. But he never counted on the arrival in Seattle of Helen Gulanos, a beautiful and ambitious reporter from the Midwest who gets a job with the Post-Intelligencer.

By the time Helen comes to Seattle, it is a different place than it was before the World’s Fair. Its very accomplishments annoy Helen:

"She’d never seen a city this full of itself. The most livable! The most literary! The best place to locate a business or raise or kid or have a dog or get cancer! The capital of the new world economy! And the locals swallowed all these national rankings and blather, even during this current dot-com hangover. Just look! they told her, as if the views alone justified the hype.”

Assigned to a back-page story about the upcoming fortieth anniversary of the fair, Helen feels nothing but resentment:

"…from what she could tell, the fair was an artifact of the corniest of American times and, worse yet, a local sacred cow with fawning coverage shamelessly regurgitated through the ten-, twenty- and thirty-year remembrances. By now it was a myth, and with that realization she felt a rebellious desire to expose the truth about the fair.”

She makes a bid with her bosses to spice up the Fair story with an exposé of the mayoral candidate Roger - the fabled idea-man of the Fair, contending that nobody could have done all he had done and not get dirty. And she wants to be the one to find his skeletons.

Roger, perhaps entranced a little by Helen’s beauty, and challenged by her refusal to appreciate Seattle, allows her too much access to him, and disaster ensues.

Discussion: Jim Lynch knows how to draw you in, charm you, and take you to places you never thought would be so interesting, much like his main character Roger. His optimism and enthusiasm are infectious up to the very last pages of the book, when Roger, in a Molly Bloom-esque soliloquy, imagines the promise ahead for the city. (“Yes, yes, yes!” he repeatedly cries.)

When Roger talks about “how the city dazzles him, how he can’t resist reading its history again and again, how sometimes he sees the whole city – past, present and future – all at once and how this almost overwhelms him”; when he describes his entrancement over the shimmering electric lights of the night skyline or what it’s like to see the sun drop over the Olympics in the early evening; when he conveys his excitement about all Seattle could accomplish, you can’t help visualizing it with him, and comparing his exuberant panegyrics to Woody Allen’s slow, dreamy, and artistic reveries of New York and Paris. What captivates Lynch, unlike that which inspires Allen, is movement, excitement, growth, change, a “brash metropolis surrounded by postcard summits and all that boat-loving water.” And Lynch's Baedeker guide to the streets and buildings and stores and restaurants make you want to take your book, go to Seattle, and look! Just look! at all he is teaching you to see.

Interestingly, as forthcoming as Roger is about his city, we don’t learn much about Roger himself. He is a charismatic man who knows everyone, but few people really know him. In fact, there is a rather poignant scene at one point in which Helen and a photographer go to his apartment, and Helen is astonished to see how little there is in it, and how unlike it is from the seemingly larger-than-life man who inhabits it.

One of the few ways we do get a glimpse into Roger’s nature is by his interactions with some of the many celebrities who flock to the Fair. They recognize the difference between the dignitaries who claim credit for the Fair and the man who actually made it happen. The inclusion of historical figures and invention of new ones also seemed to me to be part of the author’s meta-message about how easy it is to bend the truth, or to “line up a whole bunch of truths about anyone and still miss the ones that really matter.” As Roger tells Helen, “Most people barely know themselves…much less their wives and friends. And with strangers, we’re all guessing.” The newspaper stories that target Roger are particularly prone to these fallacies, as well as to the general problem of taking facts out of context.

As elusive as “truth” is, what is perceived as truth has remarkable staying power. Lynch uses an epigraph by Elvis Presley from whence comes the title of the book: “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.” The Janus-faced nature of “truth” is put into relief by setting it against the journalist’s craft, a juxtaposition that permeates the story. At the end, even we the readers don’t know the whole truth about Roger, but we also have learned that it is perceptions and innuendos that matter more anyway.

Evaluation: Jim Lynch is a talented and versatile writer who infuses the everyday with magic and then challenges you to do so yourself. With elegance and passion, he makes his landscapes come alive; they become as important as the characters who invariably love them. His characters strive to know all about where they are, and to see all there is with an open mind and an unjaded eye.
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
This proved to be one of those serendipitous discoveries when a work colleague of mine chanced to mention it in passing while describing another book that he had recently read.

The book is set in Seattle, past and present with chapters alternating between 1962 when the World Fair was bringing the city to worldwide attention and 2001 when Roger Morgan, who had been the driving force behind the success of the Fair, decides to run for the office of Mayor. Helen Gulanos, an ambitious and talented journalist, had been assigned to a fairly lame feature preparing for the fortieth anniversary of the Fair, and by chance happens to be present at Roger's birthday party when he almost spontaneously announces his decision to run for election.

As the story moves on we flit back and forth between 1962 and 2001 and see some of Roger's own doubts about undercurrents of corruption sloshing around between the carapace of self-satisfied celebration of the success of the Fair. Roger meets various celebrities (with intriguing cameos from Lyndon B Johnson, media legend Ed Sullivan, astronaut John Glenn and even Elvis), many of whom complain about the sleaze engulfing the city. Roger, hitherto unaware of it, delves around the seedier areas of the city and does indeed find rampant abuses - gambling dens, vice houses and a police force where bribery and rake-off was the rule rather than the exception. He also grows increasingly concerned about the activities of Malcolm Turner, an aspiring property developer, who seems always to be ahead of the field when it comes to buying up sites that will grew in value as a consequence of the success of the Fair.

Meanwhile, in 2001, Helen Gulanos encounters, and finds herself charmed by, Roger Morgan. Since piloting the World Fair to success he has built a reputation as the man who knows more about the city than anyone else, even though he has never held any local office. It has, though, never been clear quite what he has done for a living. Helen and her colleagues start reviewing his past to try to discover more about the man, and what might be driving his sudden wish to take office at an age when most of his contemporaries are enjoying their retirement.

In the meantime, the incumbent Mayor participates in a televised debate against Roger and tries to patronise him and finds himself totally outflanked, and as a consequence Roger's campaign gains considerable momentum.

Absolutely fascinating - certainly the best American novel that I have read for a while.
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LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
Although I grew up all over the South, my father's mother and her second husband moved to Seattle when I was in the third grade - 1970/1971 or thereabouts. I visited every summer - sometimes for two weeks, sometimes for a month, and once for the entire summer. When I was in college I visited them at Thanksgiving - I lived in New Mexico and couldn't go home at Thanksgiving and Christmas both so my grandmother claimed Thanksgiving as her own.

As an adult I moved to Seattle in 1991 and lived there for ten years. My son was born there. I got divorced there. I met my current husband there (a Seattle native - very rar). I got endlessly rained on, spent most of those ten years with wet feet and clothes, and for the most part I had lots of good times there. I miss it until we visit, re-experience the traffic nightmare (just horrible due to geographic constraints - it makes its way out onto surface streets like black mold), get rained on, and remember why we moved. Still, I love the city and would live there again.

I have very fond memories of Seattle as a child. The Seattle Center, the location of the World's Fair, was a great place to be as a kid - The Space Needle, all the events that happened all over as part of Seafair. As an adult I was drawn to Bumbershoot and Folklife (before they became the insanity of today). I have danced in fountain there as often as I possibly could my entire life. These memories made it fun to read Jim Lynch's Truth Like the Sun just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Space Needle.

Seattle now bears little resemblance to the Seattle of my memory. Honestly the nineties were the beginning of the end. We got out as it became more and more clear that yuppies were welcome, the city had been bought by the developers, and all us old-school Seattleites were no longer welcome. All my favorite dive bars closed and that was the end.

Mr. Lynch deftly catches the different spirits and feelings of the city at different times along with the differences in politics. Exploring the city through the eyes of Ray Morgan, the fair's mastermind, and Helen Gulanos, a Seattle new-comer. Ray, still on the scene and in his seventies, hopes for a last hurrah and runs for mayor. Helen, new to the scene and puzzled by Seattle's glossy finish, hopes for a Pulitzer and eyes a 40-year-old scandal involving Ray as her key to the prize. Book-ended by crises - the Cuban Missile Crisis and 9/11 - all the uncertainties inherent in living in changing times are seen here. In addition there is the simple celebration of the beauty of the city and its environs - sun setting over the Olympics, playing in the wading pool at Volunteer Park, coming into the city on the ferry at night and seeing it light up along the Puget Sound - these things make Seattle special.

Rich in detail, well-written, satirical, and clever, Truth Like the Sun captures the best and the worst about Seattle and its politics. And now I'm thoroughly homesick.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This book has two plotlines: one takes places during the 1963 World's Fair in Seattle, and follows the fair's fictional creator, Roger Morgan. The other storyline is in 2003, when Roger Morgan, now in his 70s, decides to run for mayor, and focuses on the young journalist who writes stories about him.

The book focuses on corruption in the police department in the 1960s - Roger Morgan slowly discovers this corruption, and 40 years later the journalist tries to implicate him in the scandal. There is also a lot of attention paid to Seattle's growth - at the time of the world's fair, it was still a podunk town trying to prove its class. By 2003, it was still suffering from the dotcom bust, but had established itself as a big city to be taken seriously.

There's lots of interesting historical information scattered throughout the book, but as a reader it can be hard to sort the fact from the fiction, and the author offers no guidance about this whatsoever (I am always disappointed if there isn't an afterward telling me what to believe and what not to believe.)

Mostly, this is a story about journalism and journalistic integrity. The journalist has the power to make or break Roger Morgan, depending on the tone of her story. She comes across as rash and irresponsible, and it makes you think about how much you can trust "investigative journalism."

All in all, some decent food for thought here, but nothing tremendously compelling. If you don't know Seattle, there's probably no reason for you to read the book.
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LibraryThing member Hagelstein
Roger Morgan was the face of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and the force behind the building of the iconic Space Needle. Now in his 70s, Morgan is running for mayor in 2001. As his past comes tumbling out, gambling, a penchant for married women, a felon father, he can’t stop telling the truth to Helen Gulanos, a local reporter new to Seattle.

Morgan is “Mr. Seattle,” a beloved institution, who despite his shortcomings wants the best for his city. Will he overcome the bad press to lead the city? Does he really want to?

Jim Lynch’s journalistic background is on display to good effect here, and Roger Morgan feels like a stand-in for America – imperfect, doing what it takes to get ahead, and eternally optimistic until a certain date in 2001.
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LibraryThing member dtn620
Hot damn. I really liked this book. As a result I don't have a lot to say about it. It's so much easier to trash a bad book then to laud a good one.

So here's a sentence I quite liked from page 16:

Her eyes panned the glistening skyline as a cruise ship peeled away from the waterfront like an entire city block calving into the bay.

Pretty great, eh? I'd recommend this book to just about anyone, especially those with a fondness of Seattle.… (more)
LibraryThing member ozzieslim
This book probably has the most meaning for you if you are a true native of Seattle. If you're not, at best, it will give you the slimmest of glimpses into the Seattle of 1962 but it doesn't flesh out that story enough to ever give you a full picture of either the World's Fair or the graft and corruption scandals of the period.

The most disappointing thing for me was that it never adequately captured the feeling and spirit that native Seattlites had about their fair. I have slides and pictures and whole history gallery created by my grandfather of my families attendance at the fair. I also have many memories of going to the Seattle Center in the early 70's when the Center House still had many shops, booths, a much larger international food court than what it has now and the Bubbleator as well as a complete working fun fair outside. It was always more than the Space Needle and although the book attempts to center the action at the Needle and make it a focal point, it misses an opportunity to really show what the Seattle Center was in its heyday and beyond.

As for the premise of switching back to 2001 and a mayoral race, that was a weak premise to really discuss the newspaper wars with the dying local, the Post Intelligencer pitted against the Seattle Times and in fact, the death of the newspaper industry in the city.

Lynch missed an opportunity because I think he tried to tell too many stories instead of focusing on one good one. Perhaps he tried to cash in on the 50th anniversary bash of the world's fair. He would have done better to go and read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and realize that you can tell a great story that involves a small radius - in the case of this book, the Seattle Center grounds - people it with wonderful characters, and bring an interesting piece of history to life that occurred within a fascinating social context. Missed opportunity.
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LibraryThing member sphawkins
Review: Truth like the Sun
By Jim Lynch
253 pages
Main: Roger Morgan, Teddy Severson, Helen
Secondary: tremendously large cast

Dialogue: standard to high quality; few characters stand out with unique dialogue, but, for the most part, the dialogue is well written; appropriate amount of emotion is channeled through the dialogue.

Vocabulary: masterful; vocab is advanced to a fault—with so many college-level words crammed into the writing, this makes Truth like the Sun a book that’s either daunting for young readers or altogether exclusive; I found that I had to read with a dictionary nearby so that I could understand all that was going on

First Page Narrative Hook: not present

Strengths: some characters are colorful; impressive backstory and details; writer is obviously passionate about the subject he’s writing; lots of cameo appearances invokes a nostalgic feeling.

Weakness: Primary weakness is that no character is likeable; story gets muddled and confusing due to frequent perspective flips; timeline is unclear (dates ought to be reinforced in the text); cast of secondary characters is too extensive for a book this condensed.

Medium rereading value

Bottom line: unless you’re a political thriller enthusiast, this book probably isn’t for you. This isn’t Jim Lynch’s best work, and, unfortunately, Lynch has made an amateur’s mistake here: he has crammed too much into a novel. Still, Lynch’s talents as a writer shine through at various points.
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LibraryThing member johnluiz
i loved Jim Lynch's Highest Tide. He is like an old time storyteller who feeds his readers a great plot with reallly well developed and individuated characters. Truth Like The Sun is a fantastic story that shifts between 1962 when Roger Morgan, the fictional mastermind behind the Space Needle, is running the World Fair, and 2001 when he decides to run for mayor and an investigative reporter tries to incover his connection to all the corruption that was rampant in the city 40 years earlier. The novel offers great portraits of political players, reporters and a city. The insiders' view of a newsroom in the dying days of newsprint is intriguing and what's even more fun are the celebrities from the early 60s that Roger greets as host of the fair, including Elvis, Count Basie, and LBJ.… (more)



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