Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Not-So-Amazing Adventures of Chabon and Obama

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.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.