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Maybe We Could Call It Accomplishment

It suggests that there aren’t any interesting Republicans in our fiction not because Republicans aren’t interesting, but because our intelligentsia’s political prejudices blind them to the possibility that a Republican might be, well, a complicated human being rather than just the sum of every liberal’s fears. ~Ross Douthat [1]

Ross is right about a certain lack of imagination among liberals when it comes to depicting Republicans.  If there is an audience for what has seemed like 462 books on the imminent onset of theocratic fascism or fascistic theocracy or whichever other contradiction in terms the cunning religious conspirators are developing, this audience is not going to be interested in stories that depict religious conservatives and Republicans as anything but absurd stick-figures.  On the other hand, if you tried to imagine an administration filled with fewer interesting, engaging personalities than the present administration, I don’t think you could do it.  It also doesn’t help encourage the depiction of complex human beings when this administration in particular has seemed to go out of its way to play to every caricature of Republicans that the left has conjured over the years. 

That isn’t to say that the last few years haven’t provided plenty of material for rich, florid, even baroque novels about corruption, fanaticism, pride and failure.  But how to tell the story?  Perhaps only the genre of magical realism could fully capture what seems to be an assembly of stunning mediocrities, the half-mad, the drearily self-important and the embarrassingly venal.  I think we lack the writers we need to tell this story.  They would need to be part Prokopios, part Ortega y Gasset, part Kafka and part Miguel Angel Asturias [2], but would have to be able to speak in a distinctly American idiom.

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4 Comments To "Maybe We Could Call It Accomplishment"

#1 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On May 2, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

Louis Auchincloss, a white-shoe lawyer, has written wonderful novels about the old Eastern upper class, from which he springs. Presumably most of these folks are Republicans.

I think rather fewer Republicans (outside the think-tanks and the punditocracy) make their GOP affiliation a major focus of their lives, so that novels about them would tend to emphasize matters other than politics.

Still, I would read a decent 800-page roman-a-clef about Texas, starring oil-field preppies and upwardly-mobile exterminators. Too bad Thomas Mann and Dostoyevsky are both dead and neither knew the Lone Star state or wrote in English.

And I suppose if they can compose operas about Nixon in China and Jerry Springer, we can await someting like Le Nozze dei Bush or Babes in Midland, although perhaps with apprehension rather than tingling anticipation.

Lord have mercy.

#2 Comment By Christopher B. Hayes On May 3, 2007 @ 7:56 am

Bat Boy: The Musical might just fill the gap you describe.

#3 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On May 3, 2007 @ 8:38 am

I can see the Skull and Bones balletic interlude already (Act I), and the baseball number (Act II), which we’ll crib from Damn Yankees. Let’s see, perhaps a patter song called “Wildcat Poppy,” and something along the lines of “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” for the conversion scene. Fred Thompson could play the cowboy Godfather/Grey Eminence.

It’s eight in the morning, I’m cold sober, and notwithstanding the musical comedy references, I’m not gay.

Please stop me, or call Max Bialystok.

#4 Comment By Christopher B. Hayes On May 3, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

I’m slow to question any guy on such matters. I teach ballroom dance as a second job AND live in Kentucky. I’ve had a few verbal stones (and an actual beer bottle) lobbed my way, by guys who were on high school wrestling teams! Someone please tell me how greased men in leotards grasping at each other can consistently get away with questioning my orientation because I dance with women.