Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The audacity of good writing

I have been fascinated and much impressed by Obama’s Dreams from My Father – I roughly knew about his eccentric background and expected an interesting and much better than average aspiring politician’s memoir. But I certainly didn’t expect this: genuinely good writing – which in this form requires high, disinterested intelligence, honesty and a robust, unsentimental moral vision of life. All factors surely more or less grave hindrances in an aspiring politician. This is not to say that the text wouldn’t hide things and wouldn’t paper over some serious counter-points. But the reader has the feeling of engaging in a serious and open intellectual argument. With a mainstream politician, of all people, quite a surreal experience I have to say. What on earth is this man doing presiding over a corrupt and decadent, decaying political system? The beginning has certainly not been very good – surely an FDR would have radically seized these opportunities? Instead we have had overly cautious, overly modest half-hearted approaches. And FDR was a deceitful, devious, egocentred person, not interested in abstract thought or robust moral views of life. An intelligent and honest person might not be the best choice for that position. Well, with these poisonous and hateful forces rampant in the USA, it might not be the era for an FDR at all, probably a Father Coughlin would have rather better chances. Perhaps overly dramatic, but I could not avoid some dark forebodings reading this excellent, perceptive book - he is made for a perfect hate figure for these atavistic, hysterical reactionary forces.

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