Memoirs have been a source of raging controversy. Seems some memoirs are more true than others. But to me, a memoirist makes a deal with the reader: what I tell you is real, and you judge me by the stories I tell you. I think about this way too much because I am a memoirist. So when it came time to choose who would be the best leader of these great United States, I dove into the word-pools of John McCain and Barak Obama, these memoirists who would be president. I started with McCain’s The Way to Bravery. First off, McCain didn’t even write his memoir. And the book reads like it was written by the captain of the football team who had the smart kid do it for him. The facts are all there, but it’s generic as a can of beans with the word BEANS written on it. The book’s peppered with war stories, and he talks about America watching the Iraq invasion with shock, awe and a thrilling pleasure. It dawned on me as I read this book that the John McCain in this book is the archetypal American John Wayne male. A man who’d rather fight than talk.
Barack Obama did write his own memoir. Right off the bat, I like that. In the world of books we talk a lot about voice. The voice in Dreams from My Father is so strong and personal. A scene in an airplane to Africa, home of Obama’s father, stuck in my mind. An Englishman bound for South Africa talks about the poor buggers of godforsaken Africa. Obama feels silent fury, but even in the midst of rage, empathizes with the man and questions his own basic beliefs. If anything, this is a man too stuck in his own brain. But a man with poetry in his soul. He seems to be the model of the new American male. A thoughtful, sensitive international man of the world.
I have no clue how the economic plans of either candidate will dig us out of this gaping gasping chasm. But memoir wise, Obama feels the real deal, while McCain feels a fake. I’ve heard the pundits pundicate that the authentic maverick John McCain has let his true story be edited to the point of fiction, so that he doesn’t comes across like a man who wrote a memoir about courage. Obama, with his thoughtful, elegant prose, comes across like a man who’d rather talk than fight. A man true to his memoir.