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Fairy Tales Can Come True by Rikki Klieman with Peter Knobler (ReganBooks, 230 pages $25.95) Court TV commentator Rikki Klieman details her rise to career success in her autobiography, Fairy Tales Can Come True: How a Driven Woman Changed Her Fate. Co-written by Peter Knobler, it chronicles the difficulties presented to a woman who, when pushing too hard to reach the pinnacle of fame, faces the kind of breakdown that national attention can bring. How she sidestepped that collapse, avoiding potential pitfalls in the process, illustrates just how she changed her destiny. Her determination and ambition shine through on every page of the book, a breezy read that reflects her dynamic nature. Growing up in Chicago, Klieman was told by her salesman father how remarkable and pretty she was. This paternal doting, she says, inspired her early on to become an actress. Acting, however, proved too challenging and the pain of rejection a misfortune greater than Klieman could bear. So when she discovered that a career as a lawyer would permit her to perform before a captive audience while sparing her the rigors that stage actors were forced to endure, she chose that path. Klieman exhibits a keen eye for choosing which direction would best serve her career, providing her with the unique ability to go with the best avenue available to her. She seems inherently to know the right decision to make, even if she occasionally agonizes over it. She may feel conflicted. She may wring her hands. But, invariably, her instincts lead her down the best route in life. Describing Klieman as vivacious is like saying Michael Jordan knows how to toss around a basketball. Her undeniable energy and charm propel her into situations where her intelligence and confidence ultimately win the day. It’s easy to see how she won her success. What’s hard to believe is that no one ever disliked her. Klieman’s book is filled with gracious people who tell her how she’ll be a star, but no one ever seems resentful or jealous. After claiming to reject Ivy League schools to attend Northwestern University for her undergraduate years, Klieman then goes to Boston College Law School. In the process, she finds a city with which she falls in love. Boston would become her stomping ground for her law practice. She served her apprenticeship well, clerking for U.S. District Judge Walter J. Skinner, while developing the contacts a young lawyer needs to further her career. She served stints first in the state attorney general’s office, then as a criminal defense practitioner. But as she did so, she found the need to cut corners. When she received flowers from a lawyer she had drinks with, the judge justifiably scolded her. The attorney had appeared before him, thus, the gift was clearly inappropriate. But rather than acknowledging this, she blames the judge’s anger on sexism and ends up dating the attorney anyway. Throughout Fairy Tales, Klieman seems compelled to reargue the debates she has lost. She leaves a position at Boston’s Hale & Dorr by letting the firm to presume that she wants to pursue a life with a man rather than tell the firm the truth — that she wants to go into criminal defense, a path the firm did not offer her. Yet despite the fact that she misled the firm, she suggests that its attorneys are prejudiced against women for making the assumptions she fostered. Klieman hardly mentions any women in her book, but she catalogs in detail the parade of men in her life. Then, when she’s rejected for a judgeship because the women judges on the selection committee cite reports that she was unhelpful to women lawyers, she claims it’s not true. In her defense she says, “I had encouraged and networked with women at meetings and conferences around the country. In Boston, I had groomed some and given business to others. I was an active mentor to so many young women I called them ‘my daughters.’ ” Yet, curiously, none of these women are named in the preceding pages. Still, having it both ways simply means Klieman’s charmed life continues to afford her with the openings that lead her to the inevitable “happily ever after.” Although she obviously works hard at her craft, she ignores the consequences of her lifestyle. She continually pushes herself to the limit, only to discover again and again, to her shock, that a life of nonstop traveling, speaking, drinking, and working wears down the human body. And, for a person who describes herself as “accomplished,” “worthy of her reputation,” and in whom all who encounter find a star, a winner, sometimes it seems as if she just doesn’t get it. In recalling her father’s death of a heart attack in 1977 at the age of 67, she says, “[A]t my law school graduation [my father] had to sit after he had walked any little distance, but I’d seen no sign that he was in peril.” How is the incapacity to walk not a sign of danger? Glaring contradictions like this pervade the book. Disappointed that she must prosecute for assault in a particularly bloody case, she explains, “Because there had been no death, there could be no prosecution for murder in the first degree.” But, missing the obvious did not prevent Klieman from landing the case that first promoted her into the country’s spotlight. In 1986, Christian Scientist parents Ginger and David Twitchell sought to alleviate their son Robin’s sickness solely through prayer. The boy died. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts prosecuted the Twitchells for second-degree murder. Klieman served as defense counsel. Trying the case in Roman Catholic Boston, Klieman conceded that there was little she could hope to gain. On the public relations front, Klieman acknowledges that she stood very little chance of convincing the city’s residents, many of whom prided themselves on their Christian orthodoxy, of the right to pursue a religion that could lead to such a seemingly senseless death. Klieman, of course, championed the Twitchells’ right to freedom of religion. In her memoir, she carefully skirts the wisdom of ignoring modern medical science while making the choice of a faith. A true believer to the end, even today Klieman stands by her conviction that the Twitchells’ actions were warranted based entirely on their rights to freedom of religion. Naturally, she placed the blame for guilty verdict against the Twitchells on the judge who tried the case. If the Twitchell case didn’t make Klieman a household name, then Katherine Ann Power did. Power, a political radical in 1970, participated in a Brighton, Mass., bank robbery that resulted in the death of Boston police officer Walter Schroeder. Power went underground for 22 years before Klieman got a phone call. An Oregon attorney asked if Klieman would be interested in representing Power so that she could come back to face punishment. Klieman’s successful if arduous negotiation of Power’s return may remain her most public achievement before her television work. But it will be for her work on Court TV that people will most remember Klieman. By pure luck, she fell into the marriage of television and jurisprudence just as the O.J. Simpson case got under way. Her role as commentator took advantage of the skills on which she had built her legal career. Now, not only could she showcase her acting abilities, but also render legal insight as a seasoned attorney. What makes Fairy Tales Can Come True readable is its optimism. As the title states, Klieman really has had a fairy tale life; the travelogue of her past is largely uncluttered by the tragedies that others have faced. She never had a serious illness and, apart from some back aches, never suffered debilitating pain. The crises she faced never involved real oppression and never caused her to make major sacrifices. Some fairy tales have morals, as does this one. The life of fame, fortune, and constant work will not lead to happiness, a state that cannot be equated with the incessant buzz of business. So, how does a woman born to a middle-class Jewish family, self-described as a star and a winner, change her destiny? Klieman needed only to alter her behavior somewhat so that she could have it all, just not all at once. Still, it seems depth is not Rikki Klieman’s stock-in-trade. Walking through the water of her soul wouldn’t wet the tops of your shoes. James Harper is a D.C.-based free-lance writer.

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