Monday, October 20, 2008


I haven't read but one or two real books from start to finish since Nate was born. I had been on a pretty steady pace there for about five years or so, but once that kid came around, it's been pretty much down hill on the literary front. Sarah was more of less than same way. She's been going to the library every week to get a couple of books for her and a few nighttime books for Nate. I don't read anywhere near as quickly as she does, so I tend to be more of a book collector than a book renter.

This weekend I picked a couple of books I'd been wanting to read for a while. The first was No Country for Old Men. It'll be the first Cormac McCarthy book I've read. While I haven't read more than the first page, the tone seems pretty close to the movie, which I thought was probably the best movie that I saw from last year. I'm actually not as well versed in Southern Gothic literature as I tend to think I should be--I've read the major works of Faulkner, a bunch of Flannery O'Connor short stories, and a Harry Crews book (shout-out HKW), but that's about it (I just looked at the Wikipedia page for the genre, and I've read some more supposedly notable works from the genre, but they don't meet my personal definition, so I exclude them).

The other book I bought was Dreams From My Father, despite what you may have heard, the one and only Barack Obama memoir. I've actually used Obama's use of language as a major reason for my initial--at least abstract--support of his candidacy. I've never been a huge fan of him as a speaker, but the text of his speeches have carried with them a certain lyricism and philosophical structure that I have long found to be fairly compelling. I've heard a lot of people, Christopher Buckley most recently, that when asked to justify their decision to vote for Obama, cite this book. This one, I've read the first chapter. It's actually quite elegant prose. More so than I expected.

I've seen that a number of conservative outlets are spreading rumors to the effect that Obama did not write the book. The proof they provide is some bad poetry Obama wrote as an early undergraduate something like 15 years before the book was published, and an uninspired legal article he wrote in the late 1980s. While I'm impressed by good writing, I'm hardly mystified by it. I don't know whether Obama wrote his memoir in the way I don't know if Armstrong walked on the moon, but I tend to believe both happened because the arguments against such things having happened are simply not plausible. I don't really grasp their logic, and I don't understand why people think it's true--other than their obvious desire for that to be the case.

Here's a couple facts: Teenage poetry sucks. Most people are miserable writers when they're teenagers. Many good writers are miserable poets no matter how old they are, and even if we ignore the relative age of the writer, comparing a poem or a legal paper to a memoir is absolutely ridiculous. Anyway, I don't think it's a big rumor, but it's out there.

I will probably find time to write about both of these books once I've read them. The election will probably be over by then. Weird.

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