Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Books

The Battle for America 2008 and more...

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election

Dan Balz, Haynes Johnson


The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election
Dan Balz, Haynes Johnson


The best thing about Balz and Johnson’s campaign history, The Battle for America 2008 is how they get past the public personas and provide a true glimpse of the candidates: Barack Obama, modest and self-deprecating on the campaign trail, is supremely confident, even cocky; Hillary Clinton is packaged as a tough American version of Margaret Thatcher, yet she’s emotionally vulnerable; and John McCain, the maverick fighter pilot, is uncertain and erratic. The campaign resembles an epic Wagnerian opera: the bitter primary duel between Obama and Clinton in the spring of 2008 is fought across a bleak political landscape of an America in decline. The fall campaign between Obama and McCain turns ugly. McCain’s running mate, the born-again beauty queen Sarah Palin, turns into a dangerous demagogue who questions Obama’s patriotism. In a Twilight of the Gods finalé, America suffers a financial crash six weeks before the election. McCain the war hero panics and
‘suspends his campaign. Obama, cool and measured in the midst of crisis, calms a worried nation and wins the presidency. The curtain falls. John Grassi


 

 



cover art

Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream

Leonard Zeskind


Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream
Leonard Zeskind


By the end of Leonard Zeskind’s monumental history of the American white supremacist movement (reportedly 15 years in the writing), one conclusion is hard to avoid: if these people had half a brain, we as a nation would be in serious trouble. Although his style can be tendentious—the dust of the research library’s stacks layers his prose—the weight of his scholarship, stretching from the ‘50s to today, is undeniably impressive. Much of the book tracks the monomania, in-fighting, juvenile pseudo-scholarship, opportunistic hate-mongering, and confused identity politics that highlights the movement and its leaders (particularly rivals like Willis Carto’s “Liberty Lobby” and Turner Diaries author William Pierce) who again, would be dangerous had they two neurons to rub together. But the book is most interesting when Zeskind delves into the thesis of his subtitle, “The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream”. He convincingly argues that the supremacist movement has recently lost momentum not because of a greater anti-racist consensus, but because its ideas and followers shifted quite comfortably (via the likes of Pat Buchanan) from the extremist margins to mainstream conservatism, a development as sobering as it is underreported. Chris Barsanti


 

 



cover art

Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart

Tim Butcher


Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart
Tim Butcher


As the Daily Telegraph’s man on the ground in such hot spots as Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Algeria, Sierra Leone, and Lebanon, Butcher is a man on intimate terms with dangerous terrain; his exploits closely mirror those of explorer and British correspondent Sir Henry Stanley, the first known white man to form an expedition to explore the Congo in 1871. Butcher, serving a four-year tour, learns that Stanley’s legendary journey was financed by the very same newspaper that he writes for and becomes obsessed with the notion of recreating Stanley’s original expedition… except Butcher intends to go it alone, traveling hundreds of kilometers on a motorbike after three years of careful planning with nothing but a rucksack and a few thousand dollars stashed in a boot, coping with punctured tires, dehydration, treacherous roads, and rebel gunmen, not to mention the harsh, raw land itself. Part travelogue and part political-science study (Stanley’s journey started the colonial land grab for the Congo’s hinterland which Conrad explored in Heart of Darkness and The Congo Diary and Butcher explores the early history deftly) Blood River is a thrilling mix of adventure, history, and literature. But the true heroes of the tale are the many Congolese who offer the modern-day explorer food, shelter, guidance, and security despite their own physical and economic suffering, much of it instigated by Stanley’s exploration almost 140 years prior. Rodger Jacobs


 

 



cover art

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Christopher McDougall


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Christopher McDougall


Implausibly difficult marathons, hundreds of miles long, and the ultra-elite competitive runners who tackle them for fun. A hidden, almost mythical, tribe in Mexico untouched by modern disease. Shoe manufacturers driven by corporate greed to sustain an industry that has created modern running injuries. An anthropological study of homo sapiens physiology and the course we took to survive while Neanderthals died out. It may seem farfetched, but Born to Run entwines all those strands and even pop-culture references into an engaging and inspirational read. Journalist Christopher McDougall’s book starts out in Mexico where by happenstance he stumbles upon a photo of a runner in thin sandals. His purpose shifts, as he dives deep into the dangerous Copper Canyons in order to contact the Tarahumara tribe and understand their fabled running prowess. Adding to the improbability, he can only reach them through the assistance of a outlandish nomad, Caballo Blanco. To say that long distance, possibly barefoot, running is well within human capacity would not spoil the end. But I won’t reveal McDougall’s trials involved in the gripping story that culminate with an epic desert race. Sachyn Mital


 

 



cover art

Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image

Michael Casey


Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image
Michael Casey


Even though the life of Ernesto Guevara came to an end in October of 1967, the icon ‘El Che’ lives on through an increasingly bizarre series of sightings and appropriations. Little familiarity with Guevara’s biography is necessary to play this post-modern game, a mash-up of Where’s Waldo and Stephen Colbert’s Who’s Honoring Me Now? Apart from the four-hour, two part epic bio-pic by Steven Soderbergh, Che has made appearances in a Japanese film about a deadly jellyfish (Bright Future), a political advert for PETA, a carton of Australian-made ice-cream (‘Cherry Guevara’) and shows up on T-Shirts, coffee mugs, posters and condoms. Following the lengthy backstory of the original photo (Casey devotes as much of his text to Korda’s biography than he does Guevara’s), Che’s Afterlife explores various incarnations of Che’s representation across the globe. Casey, a business reporter, is at his best analyzing branding trends and the way in which Che has been appropriated by political and commercial causes. In the end, Casey suggests that adopting Che, like any other brand, is “a very personal act”. With a tone that appears half awestruck and half skeptical, Casey can’t help but be inspired by devotion to all notions of Che’s legacy. This personal attachment, more than the political result it effects, is of primary significance to the author. Selecting Che, according to Casey “offers a taste of immortality”. Luke Fenchel


 

 



cover art

The Death of Conservatism

Sam Tanenhaus

Review [5.Nov.2009]


The Death of Conservatism
Sam Tanenhaus


The boldly declarative title of Sam Tanenhaus’ book doesn’t do justice to the nuanced argument contained within. Tanenhaus doesn’t describe the end of an ideology so much as explains the ideology’s current state of tail-eating suicide as a low point in a long historical trajectory of ups and downs. As the editor for the New York Times Book Review, you would expect Tanenhaus to be a more vitriolic critic, standing there with knife and fork at the ready to carve into the fat, wounded carcass of modern conservatism. But there’s a careful elegance to his writing and thinking in this slim, gracefully argued book that harkens to a time when the back-and-forth of political discourse consisted of more than the thumbing of noses and calling of names. The tone of The Death of Conservatism is not so much harping and victorious as it is concerned, and more than a little disturbed. What Tanenhaus has authoritatively done is show that, yes, the tides of American conservatism are at low ebb, but that this state of affairs should not be expected to last. “There remains in our politics a place for an authentic conservatism,” Tanenhaus writes. “A conservatism that seeks not to destroy but to conserve.” Chris Barsanti


 

 



cover art

Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century, Vol. 1

Clay Hayes


Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century, Vol. 1
Clay Hayes


Clay Hayes’ book is a collection of some of the finest posters from his website, Gigposters.com, an online community of designers and fans showcasing the incredible poster work being done around the world. Letterpress, screen printing, digital, and mash-ups of all forms do more than just advertise, they become art. The whole point is to grab someone’s attention. That’s truly the wonder of this book. No matter how many times one opens it, there is always something new to see, a shape or line that stands out. The posters seem to change with your mood, or the weather, the images evoking different spirits, stories, ideas. The best ones have nothing apparently in common with their subjects. Texas artist Dirk Fowler’s design for a 2006 Ramblin’ Jack Elliot show, for example, features a cowboy riding a whale, an unlikely pairing that somehow still works. Finding a connection is as much a tool of the artist as is paper and ink, even if the connection is only in the artist’s brain. Hayes’ book collects these images and shows the proper reverence and respect for an art form that is experiencing its golden age. More than anything else, though, this book rocks. Jeremy Estes


 
Related Articles
20 Aug 2014
Woven like a colorful tapestry of many characters, all of whom share the misfortune of having lost a child, this is structured like an epic poem which, despite its short length, feels fully realized.
4 Apr 2013
From the agave that makes our tequila to the lime we use to garnish said tequila, Amy Stewart’s beautifully styled and written book provides history, facts, and (perhaps most importantly) recipes for all things potent and potable.
By Samuel G. Freedman
13 Oct 2010
Two deaths hover: one is only hinted at, the other documented; one is fictional, the other all too factual.
1 Mar 2010
We so want our geniuses to be perfect people. Or at least nice people -- and so often they aren’t.
discussion by

Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.