I don't have memories about the Ford Administration, as I don't have any of the Buchanan presidency. In the latest case, probably I am not the only one, unless I am a historian or passionate about the US presidents. And I am not. For the Ford Administration left still fresh memories in the mentalities of many US citizens, as coinciding with the hippy happy times.
John Updike introduced the recent and not-so-recent histories as part of the daily lives of his characters. The academic task of writing a memoir about Buchanan is the pretext to focus on the current daily challenges, consequence of the spirit dominating the "Ford years". Sometimes it is easier to write about the present you are part of, than to focus on a period becoming more and more distant and hard to understand, in terms of human and family relations.
The text is very dense, with a literary style I was missing but that took me at least 50 pages to get used with again: cynical humour, detached (self)irony, including against the usual stereotypes of the academic life, belonging more to the Buchanan years than to the post-Ford period.
From my point of view, it is very difficult sometimes to write novels with a history hard-core. The risk is to be overwhelmed about the topic you are addressing, forgetting the autonomy of your characters. Updike admirably avoided this trap.