Loads of Learned Lumber

Saturday, July 10, 2010

John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, _Game Change_

A PAGE TURNER, certainly -- hard to put down -- a hybrid of Balzac and _People_ magazine, let's say. As in the _Comédie Humaine_, the fates of nations turn on personalities, temperaments, alliances, betrayals, feuds, and who is sleeping with whom and who knows -- which sounds like _People_ magazine already (or Suetonius), but Balzac has a sense of history and conception of the whole of French society, while _People_ does not -- and _Game Change_ certainly does not.

Heilemann and Halperin certainly knew whom to talk to, and who would be willing to talk -- the whole book is the insiders' view. The view is so far inside that there is no outside, really. The United States and all its messy differences and dilemmas enter the book only when reacting to this leak or that gaffe or some zinger in a televised debate, some lowball TV spot.

As an academic, somewhere I picked up the idea that history is about classes, conflicts, consciousness, dialectic... now and then, a new idea, an emergent possibility... all of that is wholly and utterly absent from _Game Change_. Everything comes down to who said what to whom on the campaign plane, If this book is _the_ story of the 2008 campaign, as its popularity suggests it is, then history is basically _Grey's Anatomy_, with really high stakes.

Obviously there are better analyses out there. But if _New Left Review_ were on hand at your dentist's office, would you pick it up? Or would you rather know what John Edwards's campaign staff was saying about the real Elizabeth?

1 comment:

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