||The O'Reilly Factor isn't just the name of Bill O'Reilly's popular talk show on the Fox News Channel anymore--it's also the title of his book, which, appropriately enough, actually reads like a TV show. The narrative rarely proceeds for more than a few paragraphs before a bold-faced "This Just In" or "Bulletin" pops up on the page and breaks the stream of thought--sort of like a commercial interruption. This provides an ideal forum for O'Reilly to sound off on any number of topics with lots of verve but not too much depth. There are breezy chapters here on money, media, religion, race, and sex, among others. O'Reilly dislikes many things, and he isn't shy about sharing his opinions: "SUVs should be immediately outlawed," he rants. Here's O'Reilly on President Clinton: "What a ridiculous waste!" Attorney General Janet Reno is a "ridiculous, incompetent woman" and President Clinton's "primary 'enabler.'"
This is not a subtle book, and its bombastic approach would be even more grating if it weren't for several flashes of self-deprecation, such as when the author shares a negative piece of viewer mail, or when he writes, "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a cocky bastard." Sometimes O'Reilly's put-downs are creative and funny: "If God has a sense of humor, as I believe he does, [Al Sharpton and David Duke] will be sharing a sauna in the netherworld. With one thermostat." And he's good at illustrating his points with outrageous details. In criticizing the bloated federal budget, for instance, he points to these shockers: $230,000 for a study of housefly sex habits, $27,000 for an analysis of why prisoners want to escape, and $100,000 to find out why Americans don't like beets. (To which he replies: "Houseflies mate when no one is looking. Prisoners don't like prison. Beets don't taste good.") O'Reilly is often considered something of a conservative, but he can also play the blue-collar populist: "The rich want us to believe that anyone can make the quantum leap from bowling league to country club by just working a little harder. That's supposed to keep us motivated and quiet." Fans of his TV show will probably appreciate this cantankerous book. --John J. Miller