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Zioncheck for President: A True Story of Idealism and Madness in American Politics Paperback – September 6, 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A city council race, even when it involves an impassioned punk rock activist, isn't exactly the stuff of legend. But Campbell, who also served as the campaign manager for Grant Cogswell's bid for a seat on the Seattle City Council, injects humor and tension into his account of the race. Inspired in part by a radical congressman named Marion Zioncheck who had grand ideas but failed spectacularly, Cogswell embarks on a quest to make a difference in local government, building his platform around public transportation issues. The two have a steep learning curve ahead of them, and things like securing campaign donors, recruiting campaign volunteers, dealing with the media and creating campaign propaganda quickly prove to be multiple sources of stress. To compound matters, Campbell wrestles with a houseful of quirky roommates, one of whom is an off-center alcoholic with a new handgun he can't stop playing with. Campbell skillfully captures the tension, frustrations and small victories that serve as emotional mileposts on a campaign, and his running commentary on the city of Seattle and its neighborhoods and citizens give depth to the narrative. The book picks up as it nears its conclusion, although an unwisely placed interlude about Marion Zioncheck hampers the momentum. Campbell's conclusion is tight and highly satisfying, although his closing commentary feels as if it has been cut short. Still, Campbell's ability to capture the enthusiasm as well as the exhaustion involved in a losing municipal campaign is a true feat.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Punk rocker, political activist, and part-time poet Grant Cogswell, convinced that the FBI has tapped his phone (he participated in the famous Seattle World Trade Organization protests, you see), enlisted Campbell, recently fired from the alternative weekly The Stranger, to help him run for a city council seat. But he still remained very definitely at loose ends. Campbell's account of Cogswell's odd-but-true campaign takes its title from the efforts of hard-drinking Depression-era Congressman Marion Zioncheck to expand FDR's New Deal. Zioncheck went mad and killed himself. Cogswell was less dramatic. He called a press conference (which no one attended) to announce that he was running against Richard McIver, "hardly the apex of evil . . . a genial bureaucrat with few ideas and a lot of money and lazy endorsements," says Campbell, though "in our minds, he represented the biggest problem in the American political system." Campbell juxtaposes Zioncheck's and Cogswell's respective political fortunes, thereby transcending a merely ironic tale of grassroots politics to provoke thought about history and its lessons. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Edition edition (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560257504
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560257509
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,005,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. Schuler on November 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
Zioncheck is a frantic political-coming-of-age tale: a West Coast cousin to Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, with all of the latter's suspense and angst but with none of its gangsters or sex. Like Chabon, Campbell seems to have a knack for honestly portraying idealistic personal relationships and for communicating a sense of time and place in an unselfconscious way. Although the story occasionally detours to accommodate reality, it maintains a sense of nervous, jangling momentum, like an errant shopping cart rolling towards a shiny new car.

The account of Marion Zioncheck's rise and fall - presented, for the most part, in brief vignettes which preface each chapter - is particularly well-written and does a good job of contrasting the author's claustrophobic, first-person view of local politics with the sort of dramatic, polished political biography that comes with years of hindsight.

In the end, the book succeeds - as a cautionary tale for DIY politicians, a comedy of errors, a story of love and possibly an elegy to youthful idealism. If, like all things political, it is a complex, sometimes contradictory success, it is never a compromise.
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Zioncheck for President is an eccentric memoir that takes a grassroots, leftist political campaign and turns it into a political romp anybody can enjoy (Mo Rocca's cover blurb isn't wrong!). Campbell manages a rare trick for a liberal writer -- he maintains a respect for his own politics and ideologies while not shoving them in the faces of his readers. His self-awareness and his dry sense of humor are spot on, and his story-line is funny, bizarre, tender, and oddly suspenseful. Just as interestingly, this is one of the most tightly structured memoirs I've ever read. Written almost like a novel, all the "characters" of this non-fiction work seem to echo off each other, reflecting larger ideas than just their idiosyncrasies would suggest. Highly recommended.
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Bears only a slight resemblance to the film "Grassroots", which was based on this. Phil is an okay guy, despite his political leanings.
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