Monday, January 28, 2008

The Karamazovs and the Glasses

Two good things in this blighted political season: Bee Season, the recent movie based on the novel; and The Brothers Karamazov, which I read for the first time last month and am now reading through again. Both are about our highly individual and idiosyncratic searches for God, and the inevitable compromises that we all, saint and sinner alike, must make in the end. Add a third book about religious quests, and an old favorite: Franny and Zooey, which I'm having the pleasure of watching my 18-year-old son tackle right now. Indeed, we just got off the phone, where he complained to me from his dorm room about Salinger's high-flown vocabulary. What's a "Bennington type," or a "Sarah Lawrence type," he wanted to know, except maybe artifacts from a long-dead cultural landscape somehow associated with girls in religious crisis travelling on trains? I told him to stick with it; it'll be worth it. And so it will: indeed, is there a better book for an 18-year-old? If so, tell me. I'm listening.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Four Days to NH

It's 7 degrees in New Hampshire this morning and on the way to school to drop off one of the kids, I see two John McCain supporters, holding giant signs and hopping around in the snow trying to stay warm. The 13-year-old beside me pulls out one of her iPod earbuds and says, "They're here."

I say yes, indeed they are. They've been here for a year, of course, but now they're standing outside trying to avoid frostbite.

Obama's people keep on calling. His is the most persistent campaign, hands down. I expect we'll be seeing his people any time, along with Hillary's and Edward's, fighting for prime locations at the same intersection.

"I don't think they ever change anybody's mind," the 13-year-old said, reinserting her earbud.

"Maybe it's the enthusiasm that counts," I mutter. But she's probably right.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

In New Hampshire with the Candidates

I grew up in Indiana, which never received any attention in presidential elections because everyone knew the state would always go Republican, no matter what. Any lame-brained Republican could win there. My family always voted for the Democrats, and thus my family was always disappointed. But it was never ever surprised.

When I lived in Massachusetts, it was the same thing, only reversed. We got no attention in presidential elections because we were always going to vote for the Democrat, and everyone knew it. A Democratic corpse would've gotten more votes than a Republican in Massachusetts, and to my way of thinking, after wandering in the cultural and political wasteland of Indiana, that was just fine. In fact, I loved it.

Now I live in New Hampshire, and my license plate says "Live Free or Die." (I dislike this quite a bit, but never mind that.) New Hampshire likes to think of itself as flinty and independent, a state where high-minded ideals never get in the way of practical, cheapskate decisions. It's a state on the fence - Democratic in the last election, but Republican in the more general sense. Contrarian, difficult. If you were in a fight with New Hampshire, it would definitely aim low.

So this is what it's like in New Hampshire right now: Obama for President calls twice a night and leaves messages. Hillary Clinton for President calls every three days to poll me again. John Edwards calls once a week just to let me know he's still thinking about me. In today's mail, we got two identical fliers from Obama, one from Rudy Guiliani, and one from John McCain. Two weeks ago we got a annual-report sized piece from John Edward (who looked very fetching, by the way, with his shirtsleeves rolled up, ready to physically attack the deficit, slay the corporate elites and slug it out for the poor.)

The desperation is mounting. Who will I vote for? Who, who, who? I've got an idea, but the truth is, I've wanted to delay all this anxiety until the very end - like worrying about a particularly nasty outpatient procedure that comes every few years like clockwork. It won't kill you, but it will be painful. And a little humiliating, for all concerned.

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