Books

Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary by Susan Morrison [editor]

Howard Cohen
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

You may desire 30 views on Clinton, but what you get instead are 30 accomplished writers, most from the East Coast, who are primarily obsessed with Clinton's appearance.


Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary

Publisher: HarperCollins
Subtitle: Reflections by Women Writers
Author: Susan Morrison
Price: $23.95
Length: 272
Formats: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780061455933
US publication date: 2008-01
Amazon

Call it the Case of the Cleavage that Consumed the Senate.

The infamous incident -- important only because a number of social critics deem it so -- has come to be known as Cleavagegate. Or, as writer Judith Warner dubs it, "The Cleavage Conundrum." The flap occurred in July 2007 when Sen. Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, stood on the Senate floor in Washington to talk about the rising cost of higher education, and "her cleavage crept out of her decolletage."

"It was not the sort of Hooters display that might leave you bug-eyed. It was far more subtle. It wasn't inappropriate, but it was noticeable. It stood out because of the location and because of its owner," opines Washington Post Pulitzer-winner Robin Givhan in her essay, "The Road to Cleavagegate," one of 30 featured in the new anthology Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers.

In the book's final and arguably most lucid essay, Leslie Bennetts, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, slams Givhan for cracking wise over Clinton's lapse in propriety. "Hillary made one tiny slip and allowed the public to be reminded that she has -- gasp! -- breasts. Oh my. The Washington Post, in the person of an overwrought fashion writer, immediately succumbed to the vapors."

Cleavagegate is one of the few pointed debates in Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary, a book that suffers for its predominantly homogenized view of the first viable female candidate for the nation's highest office. The collection is a brisk read and undeniably well-written, but it's more of a guilty pleasure than a serious debate on the subject's suitability to be president.

Thirty Ways is also something of a misnomer. You may desire 30 views on Clinton, but what you get instead are 30 accomplished writers, most from the East Coast, who are primarily obsessed with Clinton's appearance.

Apparently, the idea of a woman in power in the United States -- perhaps "this" woman in particular -- rattles women as well as men. In her essay, novelist Lionel Shriver credits Bill Clinton's "coattails" for his wife's rise.

That's a fair point for debate. Also relevant is "Hillary Rotten," Katha Pollitt's thoughtful examination of gender. She recounts the pejoratives that have been used to describe Clinton and conducts an experiment by Googling "Hillary Clinton + slut" and finds 208,000 results. For the record, at presstime, that figure is up to 241,000. "Barack Obama" + the noxious n-word that must not be spoken unless you're a rapper: 65,900. Shirley Chisholm, the first black female candidate for president, predicted this chasm of ignorance as far back as her run in 1972, when she was famously quoted saying, "Of my two `handicaps' being female put more obstacles in my path than being black."

But other essays obsess over Clinton's headbands circa 1992, her hair style, pantsuits, taste in food and what that says about her. Does she prefer dishes that are hot and spicy or cold, a word that appears more than any other in this collection?

The essayists also wonder whether she likes pets and question her musical taste, and many of the writers leap wildly to judgment and spurious assumptions. New Yorker scribe Lauren Collins strains to find meaning in Clinton's MySpace profile, on which the senator posted that Carly Simon's "Into White" was her last album purchase. (Hey, give her points for not illegally downloading it.) Collins turns this triviality into a veiled jab at Clinton's privileged class. "Might be inspired less by musical affinity than by their shared habit of vacationing on Martha's Vineyard." Isn't it also safe to assume that Clinton, 60, simply "likes" the music of a pop singer from her own generation?

Thankfully, Lorrie Moore's "Boys and Girls" and Bennetts' "Beyond Gender" at least attempt to bring back the book's conversation to the practical arena, where substance resides, by eschewing hair styles and ankle size. These writers argue that, in the face of our mounting national challenges, Clinton's policies are what we should be analyzing.

Besides, male or female, as Moore notes, "Anyone who runs for president is a freak -- presidential candidates do not represent any ordinary person at all, though they always pretend otherwise."

4

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image