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Political Fictions Paperback – August 27, 2002
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This collection of eight essays covering U.S. politics between 1988 and 2000 is a critical look at what author Joan Didion calls "the ways in which the political process did not reflect but increasingly proceeded from a series of fables about American experience." The New York Review of Books originally published these writings, and they hit all the major events of the previous dozen years: the election of George Bush (the first), the emergence of Bill Clinton, the Republican takeover of Congress, Clinton's impeachment, and the 2000 race between George Bush (the second) and Al Gore. During this period, Didion worked and reworked a theme of political disconnect. In examining who cast ballots in 2000 (for the first time, more than half of all voters had incomes about $50,000), she notes acidly in her foreword: "That this was not a demographic profile of the country at large, that half the nation's citizens had only a vassal relationship to the government under which they lived, that the democracy we spoke of spreading throughout the world was now in our own country only an ideality, had come to be seen, against the higher priority of keeping the process in the hands of those who already held it, as facts without application." She puts it a bit more succinctly elsewhere by describing "the largest political party in America" as "those who did not vote."
Didion brings a novelist's eye to her project, and she delights in exposing fakery. In describing one of Vice President Bush's visits to the Middle East in the 1980s, she notes that his advance team requested that camels be present at every stop--so that photographers could capture the supposed authenticity of the trip. Many of the essays in Political Fictions are, at a fundamental level, book reviews--and Didion's observations can be withering. She calls Newt Gingrich's novel 1945 "a fairly primitive example of the kind of speculative fiction known as 'alternate history.'" The accomplishment of Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, she says, is to have produced "books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent." Her targets are not always other writers: "No one who ever passed through an American public high school could have watched William Jefferson Clinton running for office in 1992 and failed to recognize the familiar predatory sexuality of the provincial adolescent." Needless to say, Political Fictions is not a celebration of American democracy. It is more like an indictment. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Eight essays by noted novelist and nonfiction writer Didion (The Last Thing He Wanted, etc.), many originally published either in whole or in part in the New York Review of Books, cover politics from 1988 through the 2000 election. At her best, Didion is provocative, persuasive and highly entertaining. She presents a fresh perspective on the oft-analyzed Reagan and Clinton presidencies, especially the Lewinsky scandal. As the title implies, her focus is how the press, think tanks, political strategists and opinion makers conspire to create stories that reflect their biases and serve their own self-interest. Didion's willingness to skewer nearly everyone is one of the pleasures of the book. The bestsellers of Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, according to Didion, "are books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent." Cokie Roberts, along with the rest of the Washington press corps, is depicted as a whining moralist aghast at the public's failure to grasp the message in the Clinton-Lewinsky story, which is, as Didion quotes Roberts, "that people who act immorally and lie get punished." Another pleasure is Didion's forthrightness. She tackles directly Vice President Gore's decision to run away from Clinton during the 2000 election. She is unafraid to closely examine the increase in religious rhetoric in American politics. On that topic, many Americans will find disturbing Didion's analysis of the relationship between President Bush's compassionate conservatism, faith-based initiatives and evangelical Christianity. This book will offend many Democrats, particularly of the Democratic Leadership Council persuasion, and many more Republicans, but it is members of the press who fare most poorly. To Didion, they are purveyors of fables of their own making, or worse, fables conceived by political strategists with designs on votes, not news. (Sept. 18)~Forecast: Higher-brow readers who missed Didion's pieces in the New York Review of Books will grab this, with its first printing of 40,000. She will do publicity in N.Y., L.A., and D.C., and national media including NPR, Charlie Rose and C-Span. This is a selection of Reader's Subscription Book Club.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.