For the recent vacation, I essentially just grabbed a few promising e-books from our local library. All of this happened at the last minute, so I wasn’t too selective, just grabbing something that might be an entertaining read and was available immediately.
First up: Up, Simba by David Foster Wallace. I’m not sure if it actually qualifies as a “book;” it’s really an expanded version of a Rolling Stone article about the McCain campaign against GW Bush in 2000. I chose the book (“book”?) because I like DFW a lot, and the essays require a smaller commitment than one of his novels. But I forgot how sad it makes me to read DFW. He is amazing and thought-provoking. His style is unmatched.
And why the hell did he kill himself? I feel robbed of all of the other essays and books I should have been able to read and can’t. I also just find it distracting… DFW’s personal story (especially how it ended) always pulls me out of the stories I’m reading in a way. I’m sure it’s my flaw as a reader, and I’m going to keep trying. But I may take a break for a bit before coming back to another one by him.
But about Up, Simba: I thought DFW did an amazing job of both making McCain much more sympathetic than I ever would have thought possible, but still doesn’t let you forget what the brave, heroic man stood for politically. (It may be that I because I don’t follow Republican primaries much, I’ve only really thought about how McCain came across in debates with Obama; to wit: sneering, condescending, vaguely racist. (I’m thinking here of the eye rolls and the “this one…” comments.) But I can certainly imagine that in comparison with GW Bush, he seemed real, sincere, etc.
DFW does this amazing job of clearly explaining McCain’s heroism and selflessness in the war and as POW and his stance on campaign finance reform as well as his politics:
And a serious hard-ass — a way-Right Republican senator from one of the most politically troglodytic states in the nation. A man who opposes Roe v. Wade, gun-control, and funding for PBS; who supports the death penalty and defense buildups and constitutional amendments outlawing flag burning and making school prayer OK. Who voted to convict at Clinton’s impeachment trial, twice.
Oh, an even better quote… this is the one I was looking for:
Who wouldn’t cheer, hearing stuff like this, especially from a guy we know chose to sit in a dark box for four years instead of violate a Code? Even in A.D. 2000, who among us is so cynical that he doesn’t have some good old corny American hope way down deep in his heart, lying dormant like a spinster’s ardor, not dead but just waiting for the Right Guy to give it to? That John S. McCain III opposed making Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday in AZ, or that he thinks clear-cut logging is good for America, or that he feels our present gun laws are not clinically insane —
Yeah, so it’s clear that DFW and I are (were?) pretty much on the same page politically. But that’s what makes this book so amazing… seeing McCain occasionally in a positive light from someone who clearly agrees with me on why he would have been such a disaster as President. Well, in 2008. I guess I ended the book wondering just a bit how our world would be different if McCain had won the primary in 2000, and wondering more than a bit why he didn’t.