Saturday, January 28, 2006

Garrison Keillor for President

A very funny and accurate review by Garrison Keillor of Bernard Henri-Levy's American Vertigo, his tendentious, cliched, hot-air-filled travelogue ("in the footsteps of Toqueville") from which I (mostly) averted my eyes when it was serialized in The Atlantic. (An aside: How is it that The Atlantic manages to be, alternately, so very bad and so very good?) Sample graf:

Levy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." Bombast comes naturally to him. Rain falls on the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Clinton library in Little Rock, and to Levy, it signifies the demise of the Democratic Party. As always with French writers, Levy is short on the facts, long on conclusions. He has a brief encounter with a young man outside of Montgomery, Ala. ("I listen to him tell me, as if he were justifying himself, about his attachment to this region"), and suddenly sees that the young man has "all the reflexes of Southern culture" and the "studied nonchalance . . . so characteristic of the region." With his X-ray vision, Levy is able to reach tall conclusions with a single bound.

To my mind, this review shows why Keillor is exactly the kind of person the Democrats should be nominating at all levels. He is liberal in all senses of the word but also patriotic, funny, down-to-earth, perceptive, honest, and open-spirited. He is at home among East Coast literary types but also among the "real folk" of the heartland--and enjoys deflating silly people like Levy who deploy dubious symbolism, untethered generalizations, and rhetorical questions to mock the latter.

Run, Garrison, run! I'd vote for you in a heartbeat.

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