Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remember when....

If you have any trouble recalling the hyperbolic atmosphere, the anticipation, the in-all-honesty sense of hopefulness that gripped our country during the 2006-08 primary and general election seasons, you were probably as checked out as most of your fellow Americans. But, in case you were at all like I was, and you are now like I am, yearning for the excitement those days gone so recently by, it'd do your heart well to pick up a copy of John Heilemann's and Mark Halperin's Game Change.

For my part, from the reports on the book's contents, I thought before I read it (in three days!) that it would turn out as nothing other than an encyclopedia of election gossip. And it is certainly that--though, not only that. It is, more importantly I'd say, a chronicle of what we all took to be a seismic realignment of the course of the American political and social future--a literal realization of the first days of the kind of world that so many of us have treasured up in our hearts--and a rebuke of a decade (and a pretty formative one, for me) in which fear was the ordering criterion of our lives. Whether that realization was, well, real is a separate question (sort of), but what Game Change does with significant affect is remind us of what it felt like when it felt like it was real.

By and large, the book tells the tale of the election, from the decisions to enter the primaries in 2006, to the organizing days of each campaign in 2007, to the primaries, general election campaign, and election itself in 2008. In such great detail are this book's details recounted, it is hard to believe that Messirs Halperin and Heilemann didn't wire tap offices, cell phones, homes, campaign planes and buses, the Capitol Building, the White House, and more than a few bedrooms across the country. But absent lawsuits to that effect, the reporting is superb. Each candidate is rendered--lovingly, somehow--in all of his or her glory and vainglory. Reading this book was like finally seeing up close a painting you'd known for many years only in books; its cracks, its aging, to be sure, its imperfections are starkly rendered, but so too is the awe with which it first struck you. At least, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared this way to me, as did numerous staffers who believed with their whole hearts in the virtues of men and women who were, in their own hearts, scoundrels (see esp.: John and Elizabeth Edwards).

In any event, before I spoil too much of the excellent story, I'll say as further recommendation that the writing is peerless--as political books go, anyway. The sentences are crisp and intellectual, and the narrative is constructed with simultaneous, yet distinct plots that slowly, but surely, coalesce as the political herd is thinned. So, we read about Clinton's decision to run, then to Obama's, and finally to Edwards. The entire long (but gripping) story of the Democratic nomination process plays out in similar fashion (Clinton, to Obama, to Edwards), until turning finally to the Republicans. Really, it's quite gripping, and I hope you'll read it (and contribute here!) if you haven't already.

Also, one might consider picking it up only to find out what advice Joe Biden was given before his debate with Sarah Palin. Other than this, that is:

"Don't let her lure you down any rabbit holes with her crazy syntax and run-on sentences."

And that ain't even the half of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment