I once wrote in the pages of COMMENTARY that Michael Chabon was, sentence for sentence, the best writer of English prose of his age in America. It is true his novels are gorgeously written, though it is also true that his last one, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, was a work of anti-Zionism so thoroughgoing that it makes Mearshimer and Walt look like Jabotinsky and Ben-Gurion by contrast. The politics of that novel were hard enough for a qualified fan like me to take. Now he has written an article so risibly hagiographic about Barack Obama that I am inclined to take away the Prose Award I effectively bestowed on him back in 2002. Here, sample just a flavor of the uncritical, naive foolishness of Chabon’s piece:
[T]his radiant, humane politician…seems not just with his words but with every step he takes, simply by the fact of his running at all, to promise so much for our country, for our future and for the eventual state of our national soul….To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world.
And when we all wake up on Nov. 5, 2008, to find that we have made Barack Obama the president of the United States, the world is already going to feel, to all of us, a little different, a little truer to its, and our, better nature. It is part of the world’s nature and of our own to break, ruin and destroy; but it is also our nature and the world’s to find ways to mend what has been broken. We can do that. Come on. Don’t be afraid.
Chabon may hate Israel, but he loves tikkun olam. And he has a taste for Messianism. In Yiddish Policeman’s Union, he posits a Messiah who is the gay junkie son of an obese Hasidic rabbi-gangster. Now, with his new-found passion for the half-Kenyan, half-WASP Hawaiian-born Senator from Illinois, you figure Chabon is slapping himself on the side of the head–”Why didn’t I think of that?” He might as well have. His Obama is at least as much a fictional character as Kavalier or Clay.