Friday, October 26, 2007


Thanks for all the email abuse about the pink background. Much appreciated.

Here's a nonfiction thought. Barack Obama (remember him? he used to be a contender for the Democratic nomination, until suddenly everyone started crowning Hillary a couple of weeks ago) wrote a book, The Audacity of Hope, that was a big seller, got him on all the talk shows, was hailed as a great new political tome, etc. So I read it, just because I barely knew anything about Obama and it seemed that he might be a major player quite soon.

It was exactly like every other political biography I've ever read, which is to say that it alternated between anecdote and policy stance with dreary regularity. I went to church as a child; here are my thoughts on the separation of church and state. I went to college; here are my thoughts on public education. I got married; here's what I think of gay marriage. As a matter of fact, it was uncannily like the last political biography I had read before Obama's, which was Jim McGreevey's The Confession. If you don't remember McGreevey, he is the ex-heterosexual ex-governor of New Jersey. He gave his gay Israeli lover a hefty state job and then lost his own, coming out and stepping down in one fell speech. He and his ex-wife have (separately) been on Oprah.

So we have two books that couldn't be more opposed in a way, one being riddled with Catholic guilt from a politician of no great national stature who fell from power because of corruption and sex, the other a happy book of family values from a politician already a national figure and likely to be a bigger one before he's done. McGreevey is, though Catholic, as white as the driven snow, if not as pure; Obama's book glosses over his extranational ties and stresses the good life in Hyde Park.

On the other hand, they really are exactly alike, because they're both out for the same thing: to convince you, the reader, that they are Good People with smarts and morals who deserve your trust. McGreevey wants some semblance of a career, though he'll probably never hold elected office again, and Obama wants more than a semblance. In the end, they're both out to create that bland aura of likeability that will get them political support.

No wonder they're hardly the exciting reads of the year. At least McGreevey's book left me with a question: exactly which rest stops on the Garden State Parkway are these hotspots of gay cruising?


Wendy said...

First, I can't stop from telling you that I think your blog voice is awesome, because it sounds just like you. Yes, you say...and? I just think a lot of the time people sound different in writing (and esp. online) than in person. But, just like in real life, you crack me up because of your matter of fact observations.

Second, I wonder who actually writes all these autobiographies? - the one writing John McCain's must be ready to quit he's so damned tired. They might even have a software program with the template you've spelled out and then an administrative assistant just fills in the blanks. This, I say, out of true curiosity because (1) I have no idea and (2) I've never even read a political autobiography!

Heidi said...

hey, thanks!

As you can tell, I don't wildly recommend political autobios. I suppose the main reason they're so bland is that they don't want anything to come back to haunt them next time they vote on anything, but even so, yuck.

Political memoirs are another matter. Nixon's memoirs, now those are revealing. Not in the way he wanted them to be, of course.