Thursday, July 03, 2008

Just in Time for the 4th of July

Ethan Canin’s AMERICA AMERICA is, well, a beach book. Why not be honest about it? Ron Charles in the Wash Post compared it to ALL THE KING’S MEN so I rushed out and bought it. Was that neccessary? No. I’d give you mine if you wanted it, but I've given it away to charity.

AMERICA AMERICA is about Democratic presidential politics and patronage, primaries and caucuses in 1972, as recalled by Corey Sifter, a pretty sentimental newspaper editor who as a teenager worked for "Bonwiller," a Teddy Kennedyish senator and presidential candidate. Corey's employer, Metarey, an industrialist/old money/ inluential Bonwiller Democrat, hires him as a driver and then impulsively decides to tuition for him to attend his old boarding school.,

This causes no conflict in his family. Oh my God, I thought. Not a boarding school. Am I in JANE EYRE or DAVID COPPERFIELD? Then there’s an Ivy League college. Yes, the tuition is paid here, too. What’s going on? For Christ’s sake, couldn’t the plumber’s son work for the senator without compromising his values? Did he have to be bribed? Why not go to public schools and state colleges?

Could anything be less hip than this book? It’s safe; that’s the best thing I can say about it. Nothing to offend; nothing unless you’re bored with the upper-class thing. A typical (if I may say so) book by a Writers Workshop professor. It’s polished, it’s traditional. John Updike reviewed it in The New Yorker. you can carry it around without feeling ashamed. Snobs will say it's all right.

Now on a good note: Canin is an M.D. and a writer. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it, that he’s gone from medicine to a professorial job at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop?

Anyway...look at the library before you invest...

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