I have to admit that I’m still giddy after last Tuesday when everything changed and it felt good to be American and not have to continuously say to anyone we meet from overseas, “We’re really not all like that. Really.”
So being a sappy Midwesterner who reads a lot of other sappy Midwesterners, I was very much struck by the elation in Garrison Keillor’s latest Salon piece. Because we actually have real, verifiable writer as president (elect). We have someone who can actually shape sentences, sculpt language. How rare is that? How many capable people get advanced degrees, MBAs and the like, and can’t even write a phrase that’s kind to the ear? How many of these politicians have to hire ghostwriters and speechwriters to make themselves sound coherent? And here we have an actual wordsmith on his way to Washington:
“And the coolest thing about him is the fact that back in the early ’90s, given a book contract after the hoo-ha about his becoming the First Black Editor of the Harvard Law Review (FBEHLR), instead of writing the basic exploitation book he could’ve written, he put his head down and worked hard for a few years and wrote a good book, an honest one, which, since his rise in politics, has earned the Obamas enough to buy a very nice house and put money in the bank. A successful American entrepreneur.”
The last American president to write a book all by his lonesome self, I believe, was Theodore Roosevelt, who, on graduation from Harvard, wrote “The Naval War of 1812,” and in my humble opinion, Obama’s is the better book for the general reader, but you be the judge.
So we will soon have someone who can write running the country. Imagine that. Only a few years ago we were noting how the Bush Administration was placing classic books under his arm as props trying to convince the public that he’s not as baseless as he seems, Laura’s earnest bookishness aside. There were all those reports of the famous Bush-Rove reading contest, though none of us believed it any more than we believe in Kim Jong Il’s library of literary achievements. Then Katrina hit and things started to slide for the radical right and they stopped attempting to make their commander look booksmart. And they’ll be gone along with their entire charade. They were always great at fiction (Mission Accomplished) even if they were lousy writers.
And now here we are feeling good as a country despite some really heavy shit happening on the markets and around the world. Someday W. will have his autobiography ghostwritten by someone who actually read all of those book he carried around, and it will sell quite a few copies before being ultimately remaindered.
But in the mean time we’ve got a guy who can write now in charge. Language does matter. Words are important. Writers can change the world. And the next chapter is starting to look pretty good.