Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Helluva Story
Probably the common element in my two big hobby-type interests, baseball and politics, is that they both lend themselves to great drama. It's not a coincidence that so much of literature and film embrace them as subject matter (or that I've tried, and/or am trying, to write fiction on one or both subjects myself): baseball and politics both offer real-life character arcs, heroism and villainy, success and failure and redemption and disappointment, and the intersection of individual agency and blind fate.

The 2008 election (and the 2008 baseball season!) offered drama to spare. You had the upstart against the dynast in the Democratic primaries, the old soldier and the smarmy corporate a-hole and the canny country pol among the Republicans. Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards were comic foils; the fringe players like Dennis Kucinich and Tom Tancredo added a bit of color. As the field narrowed to Obama and McCain, the public was presented with two archetypes, perfectly opposed in some ways but with arguably similar core appeals. They brought in their own supporting casts, led by Joe Biden and Sarah Palin but including campaign aides, media cheering sections, and the odd "(First Name) the (Occupation)" walk-on. And while I found the ending a happy one, the story was pretty engrossing almost all the way through.

In addition to fiction, there's a rich literary legacy of campaign accounts, from Theodore White's classic The Making of the President 1960 to Richard Ben Cramer's What it Takes, a 900-page opus about the 1988 campaign that flies by like a beach novel. Hours after the election ended, Newsweek offered a very impressive first cut at that kind of storytelling for the 2008 campaign, and they put it all online here. Very strongly recommended.

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