November 11, 2008

Joan Didion felt "unexpressable uneasiness" about the election.

"We were getting what we wanted..."
... a smart, qualified, decent candidate the Eastern elite could get behind. And yet the frenzy surrounding Obama made her uneasy — both the sense that he was a young person's candidate, "a generational thing we couldn't understand" and the unthinking embrace of "naivete transformed to hope, partisanism as consumerism." Didion bridled at the wanton use of "transformational" and said she couldn't count the number of times she heard the 60's evoked "by people who apparently had no memory that the 60s" didn't involve decking babies out in political onesies.

Didion was at pains to say that she did not think any of this was Obama's doing, nor to his tastes. He would, she speculated "welcome healthy realism" and achievable expectations. In our frenzy, we are doing him a disservice, expecting miracles "at a time when the nation can least afford easy answers." She recalled, the day after the election, an overexcited newscaster declaring that we now possess "the congratulations of all the nations." She likened this to the naivete of thinking we'd be regarded as beloved saviors in Iraq. But, she ended, "in the irony-free zone that our country has become, this is not what people wanted to hear."
I love the way a breath of stale air is a breath of fresh air.

37 comments:

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I love the way a breath of stale air is a breath of fresh air.

Wonderful comment, Ann. The perspective and experience of age has been much underestimated and discounted recently.

Ah well, sometimes I thinkt thats it's good to be on the downhill slope.

jdeeripper said...

"Joan Didion felt "unexpressable uneasiness" about the election."

How's she gonna feel when the "Black Camelot" ends the way the White one did in 1963?

qualified

He's at least 35. That's about it.

TosaGuy said...

Yet another generation of young Americans will learn the hard way that a mere politican cannot fulfill their individual hopes, dreams and desires. Such things can only come from within.

Palladian said...

I love Joan Didion. Did you know that Buckley hired her to write for the National Review in the early days? He preferred talent over political affiliation. Wish there were more Buckleys (the senior one, not the slimy wretch who inherited his name, money and none of his good sense) and Didions out there.

jdeeripper said...

Didion was at pains to say that she did not think any of this was Obama's doing....we are doing him a disservice..

We are doing Him a disservice.

LonewackoDotCom said...

Yet another generation of young Americans will learn the hard way that a mere politican cannot fulfill their individual hopes, dreams and desires.

Will they really learn that? The public opposition to BHO was remarkably stupid; for examples look at how little major bloggers did. Rather than coming up with effective plans to defeat BHO, they simply concentrated on getting traffic for their echo chambers.

But, if those who oppose BHO and who have megaphones do get smart and are able to use BHO to discredit the entire Democratic Party, the only question will become how to prevent the mass suicides that might result. My suggestion: BHO should pass a law forbidding the sale of black Nikes to any of his followers.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Did you know that Buckley hired her to write for the National Review in the early days? He preferred talent over political affiliation.

Didion was much more conservative back then (and still is in many ways now), so I don't know how her political affiliation came into play at the National Review. She was a Goldwater girl through and through.

dualdiagnosis said...

Didion was at pains to say that she did not think any of this was Obama's doing, nor to his tastes.

Serious? The man who said that by selecting him the oceans would begin to recede?

Why do people act like this? Do they truly feel that history is this easily rewritten? That all of Obama's soaring rhetoric is forgotten?

Disturbing.

Marcia said...

"But, she ended, 'in the irony-free zone that our country has become, this is not what people wanted to hear.'"

I've been saying that one positive side effect of the Age of Obama will be that it may mark the end of the Age of Irony.

On the other hand, the new Age of Earnest Righteousness may be equally obnoxious.

reader_iam said...

Didion's a product of taking literature seriously (among other things), God and others forbid. I, on the other hand, do not. Go, Joan, go!

William said...

Palin has received some criticism for her religious enthusiasm. However, the safest place to experience religious enthusiasm is in a church. Many of Obama's supporters will wake up in the morning with the vague memory of having seen God and a Metallica Rules tattoo on their buttocks. But not so with Joan Didion...I have only read a few pieces by Didion, but clearly rapture is not her thing. I get the sense that her emotional range varies between disdain and alienation. She likes to think that this lack of affect is due to the shoddy government that Americans have. Now that Obama is elected she finds herself in conformity with majority opinion. No wonder she is uneasy.

reader_iam said...

I, on the other hand, do not.

... so forbid.

Theo Boehm said...
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Donn said...

Theo,

Awesome comments!

Dody Jane said...

"The Year of Magical Thinking" made me cry for two days. She is a writer to emulate.

tjl said...

"The Year of Magical Thinking" is 2008.

Darcy said...

Theo, I second Donn. That was beautiful.

Richard Dolan said...

From the write-up, Didion was not just detached from the electoral hype but also from the self congratulation that was the order of the day at the NYRB's birthday bash. In the picture she looks drawn, gaunt, worn out, all wrapped up in deathly white -- quite the visual contrast to the chirpy male cheerleaders on stage.

That she wrote out and then read her statement underlined the distance between her and the boys. Even without reading her statement, you'd pick up some of that from the picture.

But "stale air"? Granted, the substance of what Didion had to say was not exactly new (although you're not likely to see much of it in the NYRB), her style is not quite as fresh as it once was, and there is an air of the-old-is-new to the whole thing. Still "stale air" may be where cruel neutrality smacks a little too forcefully into performance art. From the write-up, it sounded like Didion was still far and away the most interesting of the lot on that stage.

walter neff said...

What we have seen of Team Obama is already unsettling. They can not have even one cordial meeting with President Bush without spinning and leaking and generally making a hash out of it. Posioning the well. We are in for a long four years.

Theo Boehm said...
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Patm said...

"Didion was at pains to say that she did not think any of this was Obama's doing....we are doing him a disservice..."

Yes...this is really scary. We're all letting the messiah down. Nothing is about him or what he projects. We're all letting him down.

This guy did not scare me before. But his robots are starting to.

Tyler said...

Didion correctly identifies much Obama support as little more than slacktavism, but then goes on to worry that we'll be letting him down if we expect him to live up to our lofty but lazy goals.

To her, Obama is still stainless and sinless - it's his supporters who are about to sin.

I don't think I'll be able to survive 4 more years of our elites agonizing that they might love Obama so much they're actually hurting him ...

Patm said...

Yes, Tyler...this is lunacy.

mccullough said...

Didion has an old article on John Wayne that's basically a hagiography to the Duke.

Here J.W. worship was as misplaced as some of the Obama worship.

Although if Obama is half the man of the screen John Wayne, the country will be okay.

tim maguire said...

Great piece. My only complaint?

naivete transformed to hope

That's not a transformation, closer to adverb-verb with two random words stuck between.

ZZMike said...

Theo said, "But Didion was one of the few journalists I've read who managed to put the reality of what I personally experienced--the world in which I grew up--into words."

Sounds like Hunter Thompson, but without the drug-induced brain damage.

On another note: The Athenians wanted a really good law code. They called on the wisest man anybody knew - Solon - and got him to draw one up. He did, and promptly left the city for 10 years. (This is further proof of his wisdom.)

Someone asked him if he gave them the best laws possible. He replied, "No, I gave them the best they were capable of".

We're in the same position. We got not the best government possible, but rather the best we're capable of handling.

M. Simon said...

They are going to take away our cars and we will have to go to the camel lot for transportation?

Bummer.

A Jacksonian said...

Democracy isn't about getting what you want... but you do often get what you deserve...

Larry said...

One of these days, the single women who voted something like 70:30 for him are going to wake up one morning and realize that he's been president for a while, and they still haven't lost weight.

Micha Elyi said...

My friends in Sacramento are sooo glad Joan Didion fled. Too bad she didn't take former mayor Anne "Personhole Covers" Rudin and current mayor Heather Fargo with her when she left.

Your Correspondent said...

"Didion was at pains to say that she did not think any of this was Obama's doing, nor to his tastes. "

This is the reality of the Obama Phenomenon: Projection.
Obama is the master of the blank slate. He brings his flock to paint their own pictures, as does Didion.
There's no reason to believe what Didion insists, here; but it's the Flock's projection of how a great One really should be thinking.
Or the "smart" description- "57 states"? "I'm a constitutional law professor"? "Lipstick on a pig"? Nancy Reagan's "seance"?
Those a but a few of the spectacular stream of gaffes, but we're assured he's "smart". Well, smart people don't talk like that in public.
One hopes that the projections of smartness may come to pass.
But I can't stop thinking of Jack Kennedy and his disastrous little time as the One.
Apparently Putin is thinking the same thing.

Theo Boehm said...
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Ken said...

Theo, another Thompson reference that made me sit up and take notice was his article on the test pilot school at Edwards AFB. About the time he was interviewing the students there my dad was an air controller at the base, and I knew people very much like the ones in his article.

You're also quite correct in how much of a silly parody he became later on. He spoke at my college when I was a junior, and it was just as fun as it could be. One rather full of himself student got up and said that Thompson was a self-indulgent drug addict with no originality or intelligence. Thompson responded by opening his bottle of Wild Turkey, pouring a water tumbler full, and remarking "I'll drink to that." Outstanding laughter ensued.

Your post was excellent. I'd like to read that article you mentioned, can you steer me in the right direction to find it?

Thanks,
Ken

Hucbald said...

Electric Kool Aid Acid Test was way cooler - heh - than anything Thompson ever wrote, though I've enjoyed Thompson too (And I'm fifty, and read all that stuff in the 70's when it was fresh).

docweasel said...

yeah, well rightbloggers should be doing everything possible to undermine and damage Obama. Demonize him. Disrespect him. Misquote him. Attribute slips of the lip or gaffes to stupidity and let's get a "given" established that he's dishonest, a cretin, traitorous, criminal and evil. Distort and invent quotes and urban legends to ridicule and discredit him. It worked for the Dems. To anyone who says "let's give him a chance" I say fuck Obama.

Towering Barbarian said...

Marcia said...
"I've been saying that one positive side effect of the Age of Obama will be that it may mark the end of the Age of Irony"

Marcia,
On the contrary! The Age of Irony will now reach it's peak. ^_^

The next 4 years will suck for anyone who's an American but for those satirists who enjoy irony it shall be a very rich time indeed. ^_~

Dan said...

"Demonize him."

If you must.

"Disrespect him."

Him, by all means, but not the office.

"Misquote him."

Why on earth would I do that? His actual quotes will do nicely for any purpose.

"Attribute slips of the lip or gaffes to stupidity and let's get a "given" established that he's dishonest, a cretin, traitorous, criminal and evil."

All of that will come in due time, and nobody will have to be dishonest to make it happen. Well, er, except maybe Obama himself.

I honestly don't understand how over half of my countrymen voted for this guy. And I lost a bit of respect for Ms. Althouse's judgement when I read her post where she declared for him.

I declare this now and am willing to be held to it for the rest of my life: I will never...NEVER...vote for a candidate for president who has never held a single job longer than the term he's running for. Never.