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In these coolly observant essays, Joan Didion looks at the American political process and at "that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life." Through the deconstruction of the sound bites and photo ops of three presidential campaigns, one presidential impeachment, and an unforgettable sex scandal, Didion reveals the mechanics of Am In these coolly observant essays, Joan Didion looks at the American political process and at "that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life." Through the deconstruction of the sound bites and photo ops of three presidential campaigns, one presidential impeachment, and an unforgettable sex scandal, Didion reveals the mechanics of American politics. She tells us the uncomfortable truth about the way we vote, the candidates we vote for, and the people who tell us to vote for them. These pieces build, one on the other, into a disturbing portrait of the American political landscape, providing essential reading on our democracy.


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In these coolly observant essays, Joan Didion looks at the American political process and at "that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life." Through the deconstruction of the sound bites and photo ops of three presidential campaigns, one presidential impeachment, and an unforgettable sex scandal, Didion reveals the mechanics of Am In these coolly observant essays, Joan Didion looks at the American political process and at "that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life." Through the deconstruction of the sound bites and photo ops of three presidential campaigns, one presidential impeachment, and an unforgettable sex scandal, Didion reveals the mechanics of American politics. She tells us the uncomfortable truth about the way we vote, the candidates we vote for, and the people who tell us to vote for them. These pieces build, one on the other, into a disturbing portrait of the American political landscape, providing essential reading on our democracy.

30 review for Political Fictions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "This is something one should talk about in another time, in another country." ― Major Jocoaitique to Todd Greentree and Major McKay in Joan Didion's "The West Wing of Oz", Political Fictions. "History is context" ― Joan Didion "Joan Didion—and I mean this in the most adoring and complimentary way possible—is a well-known stone cold bitch." ― Madeleine Davies in "Joan Didion's Crème Caramel Must Be Very Hostile", Jezebel, 2/12/15 How could I not forever love Joan Didion? She is a prose goddess who is "This is something one should talk about in another time, in another country." ― Major Jocoaitique to Todd Greentree and Major McKay in Joan Didion's "The West Wing of Oz", Political Fictions. "History is context" ― Joan Didion "Joan Didion—and I mean this in the most adoring and complimentary way possible—is a well-known stone cold bitch." ― Madeleine Davies in "Joan Didion's Crème Caramel Must Be Very Hostile", Jezebel, 2/12/15 How could I not forever love Joan Didion? She is a prose goddess who is prepared to burn down every single America's sacred political temples. She takes no prisoners. Reagan is an empty shirt who can hit a mark. George Bush, Sr. Boring. The Clinton campaign? Bottom-feeding, focus-grouped idiots. George W. Bush? A pandering fool for Christ. And I think she actually liked most those politicians as people. Joan saves her hottest anger for when she is writing about the opinion makers, the political journalist, etc. (I honestly think whenever she switches gears from politicos to the hacks, she puts away the ink and starts to write with blood); and those back-room attorneys plotting Clinton's demise or Clinton's campaign, and the absolute buffoons who try to keep us up-to-date on the horse race of the campaign. That special class of idiots who type the narrative we are supposed to ingest about the moral failings, the moral resurrection, the need for morality in our politicians. She hates them all. It is a delicious thing to watch. The closest emotion I can point to is that feeling I get when I watch Dexter or Hannibal cut up and eat one of their righteous kills. It both disgusts and thrills me. And yes. Certainly. Didion is part of the game. She is part of the narrative makers she bitches about. However, she is a wiser Buddha, a cooler Jesus, a Moses who can really kick political ass. If I could with ease, hand out to a handful of my favorite writers the secret of eternal life, I would save an early vial for Queen Didion. I can't imagine a written world without her wit, her sideways shivs, her beautiful prose. A political year with out Didion is a political theatre I don't want to watch. Anyway, this book is made up of eight articles and a forward: 1. Insider Baseball, New York Review of Books, Oct 27, 1988 2. The West Wing of Oz 3. Eyes on the Prize, New York Review of Books, Sep 24, 1992 4. New Gingrich, Superstar 5. Political Pornography 6. Clinton Agonistes, New York Review of Books, Oct 22, 1998 7. Vichy Washington 8. God's Country, New York Review of Books, Nov 2, 2000 Read them. Read them all. We have started a brand new election year and among all the bullshit and political noise, it helps to have a lighthouse, a golden goddess to guide one through the darkness of spin, Luntzcraft and massaged messages to light, truth, and damn good prose.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    There are eight essays here, excluding Didion's foreword (although that's worth reading as well), spanning the late 80s to the year 2000. A couple- like "Newt Gingrich, Superstar", and "Political Pornography", about the books of Bob Woodward- narrow the focus to a single person or body of work, and a couple- like "Insider Baseball" and "The West Wing of Oz"- draw unexpected but intuitive connections among seemingly disparate subjects, but each one is excellent and worth reading. One of the stren There are eight essays here, excluding Didion's foreword (although that's worth reading as well), spanning the late 80s to the year 2000. A couple- like "Newt Gingrich, Superstar", and "Political Pornography", about the books of Bob Woodward- narrow the focus to a single person or body of work, and a couple- like "Insider Baseball" and "The West Wing of Oz"- draw unexpected but intuitive connections among seemingly disparate subjects, but each one is excellent and worth reading. One of the strengths of the book is that Didion is not a Washington insider, not habituated to political reporting, and furthermore that her general skepticism (or what the NYRB called, slightly less charitably, her "patrician accent") allows her to hear the cliches and "the pieties" that "were repeated to the point where they could be referred to in shorthand"; to identify a system of language, and therefore thought, that refers to nothing outside of itself. One of the standouts here is "Eyes on the Prize", which offers a perfect illustration, through its outline of the gradual re-shaping of the aims of the Democratic party via Bill Clinton and other members of the Democratic Leadership Council, of one of Simone Weil's points in On the Abolition of All Political Parties, about how the ultimate goal of any party eventually becomes its own growth- the imperative to win at all costs- and that of the two factors, it's really ideology that always proves malleable. Then again, it's hard to make a case for continued futility, either. A Democratic candidate in 1972 campaigned on ending the war in Vietnam. 49 out of 50 states sent back the answer that that's not what this country was. Another highlight is "Clinton Agonistes", perhaps the clearest of all the essays on a theme that runs throughout the book, which is the hermeticism of the political class in Washington.  As Didion puts it, in the world of 24/7 news, a very small group of people decide what the zeitgeist is, and run with it- the rest of us just try to keep up.  The rest of us tune in to get informed about what 'people' are thinking and feeling, even though those people are...well, us; or to find out which candidate is the most 'electable', which one I should throw my efforts behind so he/she can beat the other side, except for the fact that the people who should determine which candidate is the most 'electable' are...again, us. By, you know, electing him or her. Didion showcases the absurdity of the outrage generated among the political class by Bill Clinton's behavior- that is to say, an outrage that was made to seem as though it was sweeping the nation, when in fact it wasn't- no matter how obvious it became that the majority of the country just didn't care:Mr. Clinton's own polls...showed pretty much what everyone else's polls showed: that a majority of the public had believed all along that the president had some kind of involvement with Monica Lewinsky...continued to see it as a private rather than a political matter, believed Kenneth Starr to be the kind of sanctimonious hall monitor with sex on the brain they had avoided in their formative years...and, even as they acknowledged the gravity of lying under oath, did not wish to see the president removed from office.My only warning is that Didion's book will make the news even more difficult to stomach. I happened to finish her book a couple of days ago; that evening, on-air commentators were talking about the latest Trump rally, where the crowd had chanted, about Ilhan Omar, "send her back." "People", the commentators seemed to agree, "even some Republicans", were upset about this. Trump had finally gone "too far", and, setting morality aside, he'd made a costly political error. Well, my memory is not great, but I'm fairly certain that these same people (or those of the same hermetic political-commentator class) told us that Trump had gone "too far" when he said that Mexicans were rapists, when he suggested that McCain was a loser for getting captured in the war that Trump had managed to avoid fighting in, when the "grab-'em-by-the-pussy" audio was released, after Charlottesville- the point is that a person who comments on politics for a living and interacts primarily with people who do the same thing (maybe relying on polling data to try to understand what people are thinking "out there", beyond the Beltway) is probably not going to be able to reconcile the heinousness of a Trump rally with his or her vision of what the country is- but that doesn't mean it's something that ~45% of the country isn't on board with. Personally, I'll bet that Trump didn't lose a single vote this week.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Another gem in the crown of Joan Didion’s collection of non-fiction writing. In “Political Fictions” she explores the nature of our political system in the United States and the manner in which we all buy into the story. It is my understanding that the book was released in 2000 and what struck me was just how prophetic most of her ideas were, especially in the wake of the recent 2008 election. Various thoughts and notes I made on the book are as follows: • A 1995 essay about Newt Gingrich conclude Another gem in the crown of Joan Didion’s collection of non-fiction writing. In “Political Fictions” she explores the nature of our political system in the United States and the manner in which we all buy into the story. It is my understanding that the book was released in 2000 and what struck me was just how prophetic most of her ideas were, especially in the wake of the recent 2008 election. Various thoughts and notes I made on the book are as follows: • A 1995 essay about Newt Gingrich concludes that “personal popularity among large numbers of voters may continue to elude him.” While it is difficult to argue with Mr. Gingrich’s intellect, I think time has revealed that his style has not played everywhere. • Donna Brazille is, in my humble opinion, a poor campaign strategist, as evidenced not only in her handling of the Gore campaign, but also the comments attributed to her here as part of the Dukakis campaign in 1988, of which I was not aware that she was a part of – yet her opinion is still solicited today. Odd. • The essay about Jesse Jackson and the spirit of inclusiveness of his campaign and how its message of hope, really foreshadowed some of the greater themes of the successful Obama campaign. • In my humble opinion, Bill Clinton was a rather slimy and divisive campaigner. • The essay about President George H.W. Bush and the need for camels really presaged the importance of stagecraft in politics. Reagan was the master at stagecraft and Obama uses it to tremendous effect, as well. • One of the first ideas I got from reading the book was the importance of branding in politics and how branding and marketing has assumed even more importance since these essays were crafted. • The initial essay about the Clinton/Lewinsky affair and the public’s apathy towards it was simply remarkable. Didion hits at Kenneth Starr and his Ahab-like pursuit of the white whale. She talks about the unreliable first-person narrator aspect of the Starr Report and she just hits a perfect pitch. • Didion hints at the notion that the Clinton impeachment was certainly clearly political. The Republicans focus on the strict rule of law was not so essential during the Ollie North version of the Iran-Contra Affair. • Clearly the coziness of Republicans in the name-that-Clinton-scandal was an issue. Although the vast right wing conspiracy argument made by Hillary Clinton was a bridge too far, there sure were lots of Republican elves like Ann Coulter working their magic - all a bit too close to the Office of Independent Counsel. • The pundit class in Washington did not then, and does not now, understand the rest of America. • How very damaging Joe Lieberman was to the Gore campaign. Polls showed that 68% of voters in February 1999 did not want the impeachment issue brought up in the campaign with only 1/3 concerned about the effect of Clinton’s actions on the country. Lieberman brought back all of those ghosts because his resume at that time consisted almost solely of chastising the President.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I experienced a large range of low emotions in the wake of the 2016 presidential election: disbelief, shock, anger, indignation, confusion, revulsion, despair, depression, anxiety. I chose this book, in part, because I wanted to settle back in to Didion’s exacting language after enjoying two of her books so much, and because I was seeking some political and historical perspective. The connecting theme of this collection is the creation of narrative - the media appearances, showmanship and public I experienced a large range of low emotions in the wake of the 2016 presidential election: disbelief, shock, anger, indignation, confusion, revulsion, despair, depression, anxiety. I chose this book, in part, because I wanted to settle back in to Didion’s exacting language after enjoying two of her books so much, and because I was seeking some political and historical perspective. The connecting theme of this collection is the creation of narrative - the media appearances, showmanship and public relations efforts that create the image and stories we the people then digest about the politicians for whom we vote and in whom we place our trust, such as it is. There are two essays that qualify as brilliant and one real dud (about Newt Gingrich). The best essays in this collection come first, and my favorite, “Insider Baseball” (about the 1988 Bush-Dukakis campaign), provided some of the historical perspective I had been seeking. (The comparisons between Dukakis and Jackson are especially interesting when viewed through the 2016 lens of Clinton and Sanders.) The key new idea I took from this book is simple, but I hadn’t really articulated it for myself before - that the increasing disenfranchisement of the American citizen - the shrinking electorate (only an estimated 57.9% of eligible voters voted in 2016) - is not actually a “problem” for those in power, that small insider political class. It is, in fact, the desired outcome. It is to the advantage of this political class, and this disenfranchisement has been going on for many cycles, the political system operating almost completely outside of the experience and concerns of so-called regular people. Of this political class, Didion writes: "These are people who speak of the process as an end in itself, connected only nominally, and vestigially, to the electorate and its possible concerns." Of the Dukakis campaign, Didion writes: "What strikes one most vividly about such a campaign is precisely its remoteness from the actual life of the country." It is at once comforting and cruelly disheartening to reflect on the notion that “things” (the political process, the media, the machinery of American government) are not really getting “worse” - they may have always been a tangled web of lies. Media cycles move faster now, and I grow older and, I hope, less naive, but even the most cynical and analytical of us may still “buy in” to “the story” sometimes, to our peril. Here is “Insider Baseball” in the NY Review of Books, available to read for free: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1988/...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The essays in Joan Didion's Political Fiction cover American politics from the mid-1980s to the 2000 "election" of George Bush. They rest on a premise Didion validates over and over again: the stagecraft of national leadership in the United States is individual ambition in search of popular wherewithal, and when no wherewithal is to be found, it is readily enough created and then sold to an increasingly alienated, largely nonvoting public as "true" by a collaborationist press. U.S. political lead The essays in Joan Didion's Political Fiction cover American politics from the mid-1980s to the 2000 "election" of George Bush. They rest on a premise Didion validates over and over again: the stagecraft of national leadership in the United States is individual ambition in search of popular wherewithal, and when no wherewithal is to be found, it is readily enough created and then sold to an increasingly alienated, largely nonvoting public as "true" by a collaborationist press. U.S. political leaders, Didion shows, really don't want to have to deal with voters; they want to perform for each other and through media magic trick voters into believing what they say and do is in the national interest. There isn't, in Didion's view, that much difference between Republicans and Democrats at the highest levels except who is in power at a given moment. And both parties do their best to be the party in power by concocting political fables du jour that bewilder, belittle, and turn off the voting public. It's safe to cry, "Fire!", in the theater of American politics because there's almost no one in that theater anymore--the noise you hear is a canned soundtrack, a cacophony of special interests substantially unrelated to anything resembling your interests or mine. Didion's descriptions of Bill Clinton, Robert Dole, Newt Gingrich, and Bob Woodward are masterpieces of skewering still living flesh and then roasting it thoroughly. She presents Clinton and Gingrich as a pair of fraternal twins, which they were: two boys bounced around in weakly-fathered circumstances and determined through narcissistic resentment and odd brilliance (yes, they're smart, in a way) to be elected president of the senior class, the president of the United States, or Speaker of the House. The main theme in the Clinton portrait is self-pity, lots of it, the kid who is always on the comeback trail. The main theme in the Gingrich portrait is wacky intellectual self-delusion. But both guys were salesmen, and boy, did they sell whatever they thought the public would buy. As Bob Dole put it, he might start out saying one thing in a campaign, find that it didn't work, and end up saying something else. So what? That was politics. And with a bizarrely uncritical press led by a figure like Bob Woodward, the minstrel of method, not substance, Dole could say something like that and more or less (he lost the presidency to Clinton, after all) get away with it. Didion's analysis of how a group of sanctimonious "evangelical" fundamentalists, led in one battle by Ken Starr, is an excellent study of how even a failed impeachment/removal effort targeting Bill Clinton still shifted the national fantasy agenda away from security and prosperity to "values," i.e., the Ten Commandments, the obligatory declaration by highest level aspirants that they were the followers of Christ Jesus our lord and savior. This led George W. Bush to espouse the nutty theology of a decidedly lesser saint propounding compassionate conservatism and faith-based organizations. And it led Al Gore to choose as his running mate the perpetually sincere, God-fearing Joe Lieberman (whose natural successor, of course, is the oddity known as Mike Pence.) Were Americans really that revolted by Bill Cinton's hijinks with Monica Lewinsky? Didion offers poll after poll indicating that they really weren't--that in fact a high percentage of Americans found themselves to be divorced Americans because they indulged in the same kind of private satisfactions. But polls themselves, Didion shows, are artful fictions designed by the political class to serve the political class's interests, and they seldom get at what average Americans want from political leaders. Over the last two decades, politics in America have just gotten worse. The ways in which the Reagan administration lied about what it was up to in Central America were fairly high-grade nutrition in comparison to the zero calorie lies machine-gunned our way on an almost hourly basis by the Trump administration. Trump himself validates Didion's thesis: lying doesn't matter in politics. Empty phrases like "Make America Great Again" or "I'm going to build a wall" matter, at least for the time being. To say that this is bad for the republic is to understate the case. The last forty years of political class leadership have been ever darker experiences. The white lies have turned into black lies, bald lies, insulting lies, boorish lies but apparently that's okay. Income inequality isn't a problem, guns aren't a problem, climate change isn't a problem...and if you think otherwise, why, let's simply declare we're going to have Medicare for all, college is going to be free, and all the polluting corporations in the U.S. are going to clean up their act. That's the kind of gobbledygook that Didion documented in her lifetime and we are living through in ours.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bren

    I agree with another reviewer who said that t his would have been even better with better candidates. I read t his way long ago so my review maybe a bit vague. But I enjoyed i t. I like to read anything and everything political. I would like to see her come out wit h another book about what is going in right now in America. I just got done watching Trump's impeachment trial. It makes me sad that people..adults..OUR POLITICIANS who serve at our pleasure..act like they are three years old, slinging I agree with another reviewer who said that t his would have been even better with better candidates. I read t his way long ago so my review maybe a bit vague. But I enjoyed i t. I like to read anything and everything political. I would like to see her come out wit h another book about what is going in right now in America. I just got done watching Trump's impeachment trial. It makes me sad that people..adults..OUR POLITICIANS who serve at our pleasure..act like they are three years old, slinging insult s and making up stories. So many of our elected leaders are nothing more then sociopaths. She does an excellent job in explaining the political process which has worsened with time and I would like to read her thoughts on the mess that is our political process in 2020.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Wilder

    Didion is now being sniped at by the new, identitarian left as too snobbish. Well, she is. She is a conservative too, in the old, old sense of that word. But by gum, she is observant; she knows the linguistic rules of order; and she can generate a mystic sense of oracular terror out of a copyright note. She may loom the largest, both poetically and prophetically, of the mid century giants. (The last quarter here, a series of book reviews that snipe at Newt Gingrich, is dullish.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Conrad

    I would have a hard time articulating why I can't stand Joan Didion even if her husband and daughter hadn't just died; these days, complaining about the woman feels like torching an infirmary. But Political Fictions struck me as just unbelievably arch when I read it. When it comes to Democrats, she definitely has a bad case of Monday Morning Quarterback combined with New Convert Syndrome, so she wants ideological purity to lead them immer weiter to victory and gets bitterly mad when it doesn't.

  9. 4 out of 5

    C. Scott

    I've never read Joan Didion before and I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Her analysis is so smart - with apparently very little effort she provides some Chomsky-level critiques of the American political system. A joy to read. The best parts are when Didion chooses a target like Dinesh D'Souza or Bob Woodward and ruthlessly deconstructs their work. The way she disassembles, piece by piece, D'Souza's self-serving Reagan hagiography brings a smile to my face. The way she plucks apart all the conv I've never read Joan Didion before and I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Her analysis is so smart - with apparently very little effort she provides some Chomsky-level critiques of the American political system. A joy to read. The best parts are when Didion chooses a target like Dinesh D'Souza or Bob Woodward and ruthlessly deconstructs their work. The way she disassembles, piece by piece, D'Souza's self-serving Reagan hagiography brings a smile to my face. The way she plucks apart all the conventional wisdom surrounding Bob Woodward's entire post-Watergate career, oh dude, you just have to read it for yourself. It is excellent. Didion also puts the entire political media under the microscope and exposes their hapless lack of self-awareness to great effect. I don't believe Joan Didion spent much of her career writing this kind of material but this book was very, very good. I read a lot of political analysis and it is rarely this penetrating or insightful.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ynna

    Alas, she has spoken to me, the muse of attractive and stylish millennial women, inspiration to well-read 20-somethings. Political Fictions is a collection of essays written between 1988 and 2000 and has been my favorite work of Joan Didion's so far. Perhaps it's the continued relevance and truth her essays contained about the absolute production and shenanigans that go into presidential campaigns or the distance between candidates and their political parties or even the growing disenchantment a Alas, she has spoken to me, the muse of attractive and stylish millennial women, inspiration to well-read 20-somethings. Political Fictions is a collection of essays written between 1988 and 2000 and has been my favorite work of Joan Didion's so far. Perhaps it's the continued relevance and truth her essays contained about the absolute production and shenanigans that go into presidential campaigns or the distance between candidates and their political parties or even the growing disenchantment among voters between politicians, candidates and the American government in general. These essays are sardonic towards Democrats and Republicans and offer views and essays of candidates and politicians from both parties. I know the time in which I read this book contributed to my appreciation for it. I completed it the evening of President Obama's farewell address to the nation, two nights after Meryl Streep used a lifetime achievement award acceptance speech to criticize the president-elect and ten days before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as 45th president of the United States of America. Oh Joan, what do you have to say about 2016? I enjoyed learning about political campaigns I was not yet alive for and to read essays about Bill Clinton, a president I was too young to really remember, but the first in my memory. My favorite essay was "Eyes on the Prize," about the 1992 Democratic Convention. I thought these essays exhibited what I have been searching for in the previous collections of Joan Didion- smart, witty, unbiased narrative and observations of the cultural and societal phenomenon of the United States. Politics, it had been until recently understood, is push and pull, give and take, the art of the possible, an essentially pragmatic process by which the differing needs and rights of the nation's citizens get balanced and to some degree met.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I guess it's no surprise to my friends that I like this book so much, but even I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps "enjoy" is not the best word - reading about the machinations of both Republicans and Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s reminds you, sadly, that nothing has changed. But I am amazed at how Didion "reads" the political stage like a dense piece of literary work, noting how carefully-written stories, fabrications, and narratives drive so much of what we think is a rational I guess it's no surprise to my friends that I like this book so much, but even I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps "enjoy" is not the best word - reading about the machinations of both Republicans and Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s reminds you, sadly, that nothing has changed. But I am amazed at how Didion "reads" the political stage like a dense piece of literary work, noting how carefully-written stories, fabrications, and narratives drive so much of what we think is a rational, open, democratic process of deciding our political fate. The advantage of this kind of analysis is that she applies it equally to both political parties, as well as to all people who are involved in the business of politics. And this is a particularly timely read, with regard to this year's elections, where talk about voters' disenchantment and disengagement with the candidates reflects what Didion asserts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Didion (a favorite of mine for her lyrical essays on cultural movements, such as Haight-Ashbury in 1968 in her book 'Slouching towards Bethlehem) takes on politics in the 1980's of George Bush the first. Her harshly honest expose of the inner world of republican politics is particlarly relevant today, two decades later. Didion (a favorite of mine for her lyrical essays on cultural movements, such as Haight-Ashbury in 1968 in her book 'Slouching towards Bethlehem) takes on politics in the 1980's of George Bush the first. Her harshly honest expose of the inner world of republican politics is particlarly relevant today, two decades later.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erika W. Smith

    This book focuses on presidential campaigns from 1988-2000 - I was born in 1990 so have no memory of the Bush #1 and Clinton campaigns, was aware of the Clinton scandal but didn’t know what it was about, and remember Bush/Gore but didn’t comprehend how unprecedented it was. So this was a really illuminating read, especially considering how many people mentioned are still active in politics today. I wish I’d read it during the 2016 election!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melle

    1992 or 2020, Jerry Brown or Sanders, Clinton (he/his) or Biden.. all the same.

  15. 5 out of 5

    McGrouchpants, Ltd.

    "Another of Those Agreements to Overlook the Observable": The Routinization of Avoidance and Denial in American Politics As Delineated in Joan Didion's Political Fictions Christopher Snyder May 31, 2013 Little Red Schoolhouse (undergrad vers.) ----------------------------------------------------------------------- - 1 - ¶ When Joan Didion states, "[t]his kind of [political] forecasting, which was based on analyzing mathematical models of the thirteen presidential elections since 1948 and the state of the ec "Another of Those Agreements to Overlook the Observable": The Routinization of Avoidance and Denial in American Politics As Delineated in Joan Didion's Political Fictions Christopher Snyder May 31, 2013 Little Red Schoolhouse (undergrad vers.) ----------------------------------------------------------------------- - 1 - ¶ When Joan Didion states, "[t]his kind of [political] forecasting, which was based on analyzing mathematical models of the thirteen presidential elections since 1948 and the state of the economy (both actual and perceived) during each of these elections, had in the past proved remarkable accurate" in the last-published of her collection of previously-published essays, Political Fictions (2001), she seems to leap right over the heads of those who were stunned that the election which was to come, predicted handily as an Al Gore victory, should go to his "compassionate conservative" opponent: already the known-and-knowable has been established, in the prior essays stretching back over twelve years, as a "tune out"-able inconvenience. The map is not the territory, as the linguistic aphorism goes, but, at least in late-Twentieth Century American Politics, the territory had been so obscured by competing "maps" that its very existence became conveniently disputable. ¶ Hence, the "map-making industry" that seemed to know, all too well, how to refer to itself, and, all too feebly, how to refer to the electorate: "They tend to prefer the theoretical to the observable, and to dismiss that which might be learned empirically as `anecdotal,'" she wrote in 1988, from the Dukakis campaign trail, observing a sort of yes-men encircleship around the candidate that, apparently, involved little more than offering mild rebukes in the form of dissent as to whether the candidate was or was not, also, saying "yes" in a manner that could be validated by the others, far afield, who were also part of "the process" — itself a term more laden with import and meaning than most lay Americans with anything, anything at all better to do with their time could reasonably be expected to divine (without a research grant and/or a per diem and adequate time and/or motivation). "`Anything that brings the process closer to the people is all to the good,' George [H.W.] Bush had declared in his 1987 autobiography Looking Forward, accepting as given this relatively recent notion that the people and the process need not automatically be on convergent tracks" — a delineation of a moat that only those so safely on the "other side" of could be so casually comfortable with even articulating, one could add. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- - 2 - ¶ By the time this "process"-centric process was confronted with the Clinton "scandal," most commentators were left with little other than grandstanding condescensions with which to filter the public's lack of shock at the events: "The notions that Americans apparently willing to overlook a dalliance in the Oval Office would go gale at its rather commonplace details [soon to be released in Ken Starr's `oddly novelistic' Referral to the United States House of Representatives] seemed puzzling in the extreme, as did the professed inability to understand why these Americans might favor a person who had engaged in such a common sexual act over the person who had elicited the details of that act as evidence for a public stoning." Nonetheless, the Conventional Wisdom as held by the Punditariat [a term Christopher Buckley coined in his "oddly realistic" novel Boomsday] was such that, indifferent to the nation's (relative, but crucial) indifference to these goings-on, the shapers of Al Gore's successive campaign for President would have to "acknowledge" these shortcomings — in the face of the (relative, but crucial) financial success voting Americans had been enjoying since President Clinton's first term started and was why the political scientists mentioned at the start of this paper failed to account for the only indicator which could predict a loss for the former Vice President: a majority-share subsumation of the signal within the noise. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- A- Christopher, I don't what it is about this assignment, but, suffice it to say, I think you've joined the ranks of leagues of undergraduates (and other eager-to-learners) whom Joan Didion has "shown the light" to. This is your best yet, and, as such, warrants little further comment. Ant apt end to your coursework with us, if nothing else. Have a nice summer! Johnson de Johnson Prof. Emeritus, Eng. Lang & Lit. Univ. of Chicago

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    In one of the stronger collections of her essays, Political Fictions revisits a series of essays she wrote in the last decade of the 20th century on assignment for The New York Review of Books. In these writings she covers the elections between 1988 and 2000 and finds much to talk about. Dukakis, Bush the first, Bush the second, and Clinton are the main focus but we also see references to Monica and " Compassionate Conservatism. " Through it all what Didion most observes is the corruption of th In one of the stronger collections of her essays, Political Fictions revisits a series of essays she wrote in the last decade of the 20th century on assignment for The New York Review of Books. In these writings she covers the elections between 1988 and 2000 and finds much to talk about. Dukakis, Bush the first, Bush the second, and Clinton are the main focus but we also see references to Monica and " Compassionate Conservatism. " Through it all what Didion most observes is the corruption of the political class, the self described importance of the opinions and thoughts of the Washington set. The essays are all strong, written with Didion's customary structure that lesser writers would sell their soul for, but, to speak, of one that nails it's subject matter "Vichy Washington " is a good place to start. I lived through, was a functioning adult during the Clinton sex scandals of the late nineties, and the same things I witnessed and wondered about she writes about. The constant drumbeat during the Lewinsky scandal of " the tainted office of the Presidency " by the mainstream press, not just the far right, but the David Broder's of the world was never ending. These same experts were shocked when Clinton's popularity stayed high, or, in some cases, increased. After the 98 mid terms they were flabbergasted. Still, and here is the most salient point, was the agenda set by the talking heads in 2000, Bush v Gore, that despite a booming economy and much to brag about, the Democrats, i.e Gore, cannot run on that record or make claim to it because of the disgust the voters have with President Clinton. A disgust, as she points out, that had not shown in anyway in the polls or elections having taken place since the event. In other words having failed to forecast correctly in 98, the Washington elite did not change their opinion, recognize a different thing going on, instead they doubled down in 2000 stealing from Gore his best levers to pull. For all the talk of the liberal media it should be, must be, pointed out that it was this group that moralized against Clinton and incapacitated Gore. Sure the rabid right did their thing but their audience is limited to those already in the choir. No, Gore was taken out by this group, but moreover Gore took himself out. Perhaps Albert Gore Jr. really was disgusted by his President, perhaps he could not bring himself to accept the man with faults AND a spectacular economy. Didion opines however that Gore allowed the agenda to be set in ways that crippled him in a campaign that it would take an imbecile to lose. Nothing does a reader more enjoy than to have his opinion validated in something he reads. From the left, from the right, we all love an echo chamber as long as it is our voice we hear. In 2000 during the convention I always felt that if Gore would have just embraced his President, his flawed man like all of us are, that the people, the undecideds, would have appreciated the loyalty. Instead Clinton was hidden in the campaign. The media, the left leaning media, set the tone, agenda, and issues of the campaign. Still the fault lay more with the Vice President, by allowing them to do so, by accepting their storyline as opposed to what was obvious in the reactions and opinions of the actual voters, Gore perhaps got the fate he deserved and we all lived to regret.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    Didion's central argument throughout the essays in Political Fictions is that our democratic elections (and the entire apparatus that surround them) are only nominally connected to the electorate itself. She argues only a small percentage of the population has become the deciding element in elections, this outcome is favorable to political elites (as the population they must appeal to becomes much more manageable), and this outcome was actively contributed to by the political media. She frequent Didion's central argument throughout the essays in Political Fictions is that our democratic elections (and the entire apparatus that surround them) are only nominally connected to the electorate itself. She argues only a small percentage of the population has become the deciding element in elections, this outcome is favorable to political elites (as the population they must appeal to becomes much more manageable), and this outcome was actively contributed to by the political media. She frequently comments on what she sees as the growing contempt of this political class for the electorate it is supposed to represent, and she frequently highlights the absurdity of politics as performance rather than politics as substance. While I think the core of her argument - about the disconnect between the electorate and their representatives as a natural byproduct of the artificiality of a political apparatus that speaks only to itself in a perpetual feedback loop - is essential, I don't know how much this book offers beyond that (her argument is most succinctly delivered in the foreword). The essays are solely critical - almost the entire book is her just utterly roasting various journalists, organizations, and political figures - and are never, ever constructive. Not that it's Didion's job to be constructive, I just personally would much, much rather read about solutions right now rather than a 338-page indictment of the current system. And, as her goal is to utterly incinerate these organizations/individuals in service of her argument, I think the scope of the collection as a whole is ultimately quite a narrow picture of American politics from 1988-2000. Both of these issues are why this was ultimately a 3-star read for me. As a final note, it was interesting what has changed over time and what had eerie similarities to the current political moment. Campaigning has become, by necessity, much less staged - in the era of Twitter you couldn't have an incredibly artificial baseball toss with a campaign aide, as she describes in "Insider Baseball." Both political journalism and constituent access to representatives have never been more open (thank you, Internet). The similarities - notably between the Dukakis/Jackson primary and the 2016 Democratic primary and her descriptions of candidates positioning themselves rhetorically as political outsiders - all recall the resurgent nature of American populism. I think this observation drives home Didion's key point; in a nation where the majority is consistently disillusioned with politics (or otherwise completely disengaged from politics), it seems natural the populist candidates have a special resonance. Ultimately, I would really only recommend this book to someone with a staunch interest in American politics (and, even then, I think any reader could stop after reading the foreword and the first three essays without missing much.)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bryant

    A wonderful antidote to the sometimes obnoxious over-excitement surrounding the 2008 American presidential election, Didion's "Political Fictions" reminds us why revving up the engine of hope when it comes to political change usually leads to frustration. As a marker of her often unintentional prescience, consider her observation about the robotic mantras of the 1992 DNC: "Not much at their [the Democrats' 1992] convention got left to improvisation. They spoke about 'unity.' They spoke about a 'n A wonderful antidote to the sometimes obnoxious over-excitement surrounding the 2008 American presidential election, Didion's "Political Fictions" reminds us why revving up the engine of hope when it comes to political change usually leads to frustration. As a marker of her often unintentional prescience, consider her observation about the robotic mantras of the 1992 DNC: "Not much at their [the Democrats' 1992] convention got left to improvisation. They spoke about 'unity.' They spoke about a 'new generation,' about 'change,' about 'putting people first.'" It's tempting to dismiss Didion's cynicism as unhelpful or simplistic, but, reading her book, it becomes equally clear how easy it is to nurture the bloated aspirations our candidates offer us, aspirations that become more bloated when divorced from a knowledge of history. This book helps to restore the necessary dimensions of historical knowledge that can help us make sense of--or at least recognize--the cycles and patterns that pervade election season after season. Didion's account of the 1988 presidential election, for instance, and the ways in which the "insider" process functions at a level "perilously remote" from the people it purports to represent, makes for a sobering comparison with our current election. If politics is the art, not the practice, of the possible, then Didion's chief skill is her lapidary exposure of the art, and artistry, that goes into crafting our national political narratives. She calls these narratives fictions, but we dismiss their realness at the risk of being improperly informed voters.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    Kind of an "After-After Henry," unfortunately plunked down right around 9/11 and therefore pretty much instantly irrelevant to Topic A. This book collects Didion's long-form, analytical essays (some of which were very long book reviews in the NYRB) through the Clinton years. On the one hand, "Political Fictions" is lacking another half-dozen or so essays that would round it out -- the margins are narrow and the type is leded-out, reflecting a paucity of material to choose from; she just wasn't w Kind of an "After-After Henry," unfortunately plunked down right around 9/11 and therefore pretty much instantly irrelevant to Topic A. This book collects Didion's long-form, analytical essays (some of which were very long book reviews in the NYRB) through the Clinton years. On the one hand, "Political Fictions" is lacking another half-dozen or so essays that would round it out -- the margins are narrow and the type is leded-out, reflecting a paucity of material to choose from; she just wasn't writing as much by then (and perhaps got too bogged down in her 1996 novel "The Last Thing He Wanted"). On the other hand, the "Foreward" at the beginning is a brilliant essay in which she describes how she was all but forced into reporting on the 1988 presidential campaign and how that bizarre experience (the tale of getting aboard the Jesse Jackson campaign plane is worth the price of the whole book) pushed her work in a far more serious exploration of American politics. My best memory of this book is meeting her, just another hardcore fan at her Politics & Prose reading and signing in the fall of 2001. Everything they say about her (and what she says about herself) is true: She's not a great speaker, not great at answering questions about her work in any satisfying way; she seems terrified of the attention and fragile as a baby bird. She once wrote that writers leave their game at the keyboard; in person, they can be a real letdown. I wasn't at all let down; I was impressed that she nailed herself as well as she nails others.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Culli

    I heard/saw Joan Didion speak at Mizzou just after this book was released. Basically she chronicles politics of the last two decades, from the election of George H.W. to his defeat by Clinton to Clinton’s impeachment to the election of George W. Didion is wry and often sardonic and it’s easy to see why the NYT has described her writing as “night scope sniper prose.” Indeed, and Didion’s target is the pansy, self-serving politicos who hide behind their spin-doctors. Her writing style is unique an I heard/saw Joan Didion speak at Mizzou just after this book was released. Basically she chronicles politics of the last two decades, from the election of George H.W. to his defeat by Clinton to Clinton’s impeachment to the election of George W. Didion is wry and often sardonic and it’s easy to see why the NYT has described her writing as “night scope sniper prose.” Indeed, and Didion’s target is the pansy, self-serving politicos who hide behind their spin-doctors. Her writing style is unique and may take some getting used to, but she is definitely in a league all her own. Ditto heads beware.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Seán

    Lance Mannion on the Journalist as Impressionist: The best journalism is the work of writers who see it as their job to base their opinions on verifiable facts and deliver impressions that are the result of taking a long, hard look at the facts and thinking deeply and seriously about them in order to understand what they hinge on and what hinges on them. That’s what Bill Moyers does. That’s what Joan Didion does, that’s what John McPhee does, and, when they were in their prime, used to do as well Lance Mannion on the Journalist as Impressionist: The best journalism is the work of writers who see it as their job to base their opinions on verifiable facts and deliver impressions that are the result of taking a long, hard look at the facts and thinking deeply and seriously about them in order to understand what they hinge on and what hinges on them. That’s what Bill Moyers does. That’s what Joan Didion does, that’s what John McPhee does, and, when they were in their prime, used to do as well as anyone has ever done. I posit that this still qualifies as "prime."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    I'm glad that I picked this up after watching the new Netflix documentary on Joan Didion! I'd previously had Slouching Towards Bethlehem on my to-read, but for some reason, had never gotten to it. Will absolutely pick that up now. These political essays were incisive and funny page-turners. The only complaint I had was that this copy I read didn't have original publish information on each essay. I would have liked to know as I was reading them, what audience/publication they were originally comp I'm glad that I picked this up after watching the new Netflix documentary on Joan Didion! I'd previously had Slouching Towards Bethlehem on my to-read, but for some reason, had never gotten to it. Will absolutely pick that up now. These political essays were incisive and funny page-turners. The only complaint I had was that this copy I read didn't have original publish information on each essay. I would have liked to know as I was reading them, what audience/publication they were originally compiled for.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marit

    I found this book by chance, perusing the magnetic shelves at Zandbroz, a funky indy store in downtown Fargo, ND. Bought it on a whim and found that I just love Didion's writing style and combining it with this subject matter just leaves me smiling, wanting more. The pictures painted of the political world are revealing, feeding my always-hungry curiosity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Larimer

    I read this in June 2002 and I can't believe I forgot to add it to my list. It is an excellent guide to all the wingnuts popping up in politics. Better yet, it was written just about the time the wingnuts began to pop up.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Everything old is new again...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Skewering the politicos I hope what Joan Didion, essayist extraordinary, learned from this adventure in pol land Americana (that her husband, John Gregory Dunne, "already knew," as she notes on the dedication page) is that there is not a dime's worth of difference between Republicans (they suck!) and Democrats (they suck!) in this democracy by capitalism. Well, maybe fifteen cents. How terribly, terribly impatient I got with Bill Clinton and the demos, that is until George W. took office and then Skewering the politicos I hope what Joan Didion, essayist extraordinary, learned from this adventure in pol land Americana (that her husband, John Gregory Dunne, "already knew," as she notes on the dedication page) is that there is not a dime's worth of difference between Republicans (they suck!) and Democrats (they suck!) in this democracy by capitalism. Well, maybe fifteen cents. How terribly, terribly impatient I got with Bill Clinton and the demos, that is until George W. took office and then I began to feel some nostalgia for good old fashion sexual malfeasance in lieu of the Incredible Shrinking Bill of Rights and a return to foreign policy as conceived by the CIA. I think Ms Didion did indeed notice the similarities between the parties in this collection of political essays and journalisms, 1988-2000, most of which were first published in The New York Review of Books. She seems to find Dukakis, Clinton and Gore just as lame as George and George W., although in different ways. (Of course one does sense that overall there is just the barest leftward lean!) Sometimes however it is difficult to tell whether she is just observing the madness or satirizing it, so exquisitely sharp is her rapier. But take a hint from some of the titles, e.g., "The West Wing of Oz," "Newt Gingrich, Superstar," "Political Pornography," "Vichy Washington," "God's Country," etc. Let's take especially the chapter on the one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Republican congressman from Georgia (and fellow Amazon.com reviewer!) to see what Miss Didion is up to. The chapter starts out innocently enough with a 213-word sentence (no semicolons!) detailing the "personalities and books and events" that helped shape the one-time presidential hopeful. Didion uses a technique here that might be called "damning by bizarre association." Thus one reads that Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, etc., influenced the Honorable Mr. Gingrich, but so did Tom Clancy, "Zen in the Art of Archery," and the 1913 Girl Scout Handbook. One senses where Didion is going when a page later she describes Gingrich's method of developing "an intellectual base" by "collecting quotes and ideas on scraps of paper stored in shoeboxes" (quoting Dick Williams, author of "Newt!" on page 169). The cat is completely out of the bag when Didion notes some of Gingrich's publications, including the novel "1945," which Didion describes as "a fairly primitive example of the kind of speculative fiction known as alternative history." Didion goes on to give capsule reviews of "1945" and "To Renew America," taking some delight in Newt's fixation on numbers and outline forms, "seven steps necessary to solve the drug problem," "eight areas of necessary change in our health care system," etc. ending with the observation on page 179 that "we have here a man who once estimated the odds on the survival of his second marriage at 53 to 47." Didion calls this an "inclination toward the pointlessly specific...coupled with a tic to inflate what is actually specific into a general principle, a big concept." By the time Didion is through with Professor Gingrich, one sees that the epithet, "Superstar" is sarcastic and a delusion of the mind of a nerd fully grown. Well, is this fair? I don't know, but it is kind of fun. However I recommend that you read this not for fun or for the edification that you might get from the material. Instead I recommend Joan Didion's political pieces as a study in style, as an education in how to slice finely and well, how to discredit and lampoon with class. Didion, when she writes about politics, is like Gore Vidal or Mark Twain being well-behaved at tea with a pinky aimed directly and unmistakably at the hostess. Comparing this book to her now classic Slouching Towards Bethlehem (circa 1961) which includes the famous self-revelatory essay, "On Going Home," one notices that the novelistic and "affecting" style has disappeared. In its place we have a hard-nosed, but fancy, street journalism with the author somewhere in the background discreetly washing her hands. By the way, the "...they suck!" above is a paraphrase of a lyric by the now defunct ska band, Out of Order. --Dennis Littrell, author of the mystery novel, “Teddy and Teri”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    I'm not exactly sure why I missed out on reading Joan Didion's 2001 book of political essays, Political Fictions. I suspect it might have something to do with thinking that he essays weren't relevant since they mostly were written between 1988 and 1998. Recently on a political podcast, recommendations were made about documentaries about Republican spin doctors Get Me Roger Stone and Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story as well as Didion's essay "The West Wing of Oz" that was included in this collec I'm not exactly sure why I missed out on reading Joan Didion's 2001 book of political essays, Political Fictions. I suspect it might have something to do with thinking that he essays weren't relevant since they mostly were written between 1988 and 1998. Recently on a political podcast, recommendations were made about documentaries about Republican spin doctors Get Me Roger Stone and Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story as well as Didion's essay "The West Wing of Oz" that was included in this collection. So I went down a political rabbit hole and consumed these recommendations. Didion's book not only survives the test of time, as most of her nonfiction does, but the observations she makes are still relevant in the Trump era. In "Insider Baseball" Didion reports on the 1988 campaign where George H.W. Bush handily defeats Michael Dukakis and Didion takes to task the sycophantic press corps that were not doing their jobs properly because they were kow tow-ing to both candidates. This is timely in the way that the press has normalized Trump behavior throughout his campaign and time in as president-is seems as if the press cannot stick to one disgraceful trope long enough to pin him down for it-sexism, the Russian meddling in the election, the conflict of interest with his businesses, etc. This is followed by the piece, “The West Wing of Oz”, that was recommended that is a great analysis of the Reagan presidency. "From the outset,” she writes, “the invention of a president who could be seen as active rather than passive, who could be understood to possess mysteriously invisible and therefore miraculously potent leadership skills, became a White House priority.” Trump, in his showmanship, can be traced back to the cypher Reagan, the savior of the GOP and master storyteller and actor. Reading Political Fictions makes me wonder what Joan Didion has to say about Trump's triumph. "Eyes on the Prize" is a look at Bill Clinton's "Putting People First" program, which was fashioned with language largely determined by focus groups. As a result, in the scramble for all-important swing votes in the center, the Democratic Party abandoned any mention of the disenfranchised, unless by disenfranchised it meant the allegedly forgotten middle class-something that Trump was able to exploit in 2016. Next in the collection was "Newt Gingrinch, Superstar" in which she eviscerates the former House leader's bullet-pointed To Renew America and his novel 1945, which envisions a future culled from cut-rate science fiction in a review. In "Political Pornography" is a take down of Bob Woodward, the ultimate insider journalist, whose book The Choice was built on extensive interviews with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole—access gained, she suspects, from his idea of "fairness," or an avoidance of asking tough questions. Then the last two essays deal with the Clinton Impeachment. The main thesis of the essay “Clinton Agonistes”: that everything that happened in the wake of the Lewinsky revelations was already known about Clinton’s character from the beginning-not a "vast right wing conspiracy." And in the second essay, "Vichy Washington" Didion exposes the gap between the press and Republicans who acted shocked about Clinton's sexual antics while the general public saw no need for a constitutional crisis with Clinton's behavior. This collection is an assemblage of shrewdly written critiques on modern day American politics and a classic of the genre.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jodesz

    “In the understandably general yearning for ‘change’ in the governing of our country, we might pause to reflect on just what is being changed, and by whom, and for whom.” ––––– I want to start this review by saying that I would die for Joan Didion, the queen of everything I aspire to be in life. In POLITICAL FICTIONS, a collection of essays, she explores if not outright dissect several figureheads in the American political scene – from presidential candidates to those working behind the scenes. In “In the understandably general yearning for ‘change’ in the governing of our country, we might pause to reflect on just what is being changed, and by whom, and for whom.” ––––– I want to start this review by saying that I would die for Joan Didion, the queen of everything I aspire to be in life. In POLITICAL FICTIONS, a collection of essays, she explores if not outright dissect several figureheads in the American political scene – from presidential candidates to those working behind the scenes. In her foreword, Didion made it clear that she’s no political reporter, even placing herself out of the network of political elite that drives the country’s narrative. But her analysis of the events deliver beyond what a seasoned political reporter can do. As usual, she parses the issues and controversies mercilessly yet with so much finesse that I personally think it would an honor to be eviscerated by her through her essays. In 8 essays, Didion dissected the political situations from 1998 to 2000 – from the presidential race George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis to the rise and fall of Bill Clinton. Standouts for me are her essays on Ronald Reagan where she compared his presidency with his approach to acting, her takedown of Newt Gingrich who benefited from “the nation’s cultural and historical amnesia,” and on journalist Bob Woodward’s work which she said lacks a “measure of cerebral activity.” You can feel Didion’s disappointment, disdain, etc in this collection. And she expresses these emotions by not ranting away but by letting the subjects’ or their allies’ works speak for themselves. Like what he did to Reagan through Dinesh D’Souza’s biography or Gingrich’s absurd books. POLITICAL FICTIONS is not as lyrical like her other more personal works. But I guess that’s why it works. Now I can’t help but wonder how she’ll discuss the political situation in the world now. Anyway, I love you, Lola Joan! Please take care of yourself!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Reading these essays written between 1988 and 2000 through the lens of 2008 and 2016 is like reading the Old Testament through the lens of the New. Didion identifies the problem with our politics in the fist paragraph of the first essay, the people she hung out with in high school - average Janes and Joe's - don't vote and are not involved in the "process". Didion's coverage of the 88 Democratic Primary in California predicts both Obama's and Trump's rise. Jesse Jackson was dangerous for three r Reading these essays written between 1988 and 2000 through the lens of 2008 and 2016 is like reading the Old Testament through the lens of the New. Didion identifies the problem with our politics in the fist paragraph of the first essay, the people she hung out with in high school - average Janes and Joe's - don't vote and are not involved in the "process". Didion's coverage of the 88 Democratic Primary in California predicts both Obama's and Trump's rise. Jesse Jackson was dangerous for three reasons - First, white people started to vote for him. Obama won Iowa and that's how he won the nomination. Second, Jackson was financed outside the political process. That's Trump. Third he had no political experience - that's basically both of them. "I heard him [Jackson] he didn't sound like a politician." But the her piece "Clinton Agonistes" just nails Clinton while circling back to the main theme. From the first paragraph (Didion's opening's are her best parts, that goes for Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted except when when she ends with a killer quote) "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 a the provincial adolescent." "No one could have missed the reservoir of self-pity, the quickness to blame, the narrowing of the eyes, as if in wildlife documentary, when things did not go his way. That famous tendency of the candidate to take a less than forthcoming approach to embarrassing questions that had already been well documented." "Nothing that is now known about the 42nd President was not known before the New Hampshire primary in 1992." And then the killer close: "Who cares about what every adult thinks", said one staffer, "It's totally not germane to the point".

  30. 5 out of 5

    Salvatore

    Are we stuck in the 80s and 90s today? The names that keep coming up in these books are still front and centre in the current political climate (including our president, who appears on the floor of a convention; including Bob Woodward, who she thinks should actually draw conclusions instead of just allowing what are basically press releases in the form of interviews to be the record - what she calls 'political pornography'). We're still discussing how media and politics are intertwined, e.g. Mic Are we stuck in the 80s and 90s today? The names that keep coming up in these books are still front and centre in the current political climate (including our president, who appears on the floor of a convention; including Bob Woodward, who she thinks should actually draw conclusions instead of just allowing what are basically press releases in the form of interviews to be the record - what she calls 'political pornography'). We're still discussing how media and politics are intertwined, e.g. Michael Dukakis's game of catch for the cameras to eat up (how about news corporations calling themselves something less generic than media?), how there are people in the know and people who are in the no, who don't get the staging and pandering. Of course Didion would be a powerful critic on this subject, since politics has veered into celebrity and winning/power. I appreciated her take on swing and values voters - and Florida.

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