Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama's election predicted in 1971

The Drifters by James Michener chronicles the lives of six teenagers in the late 1960s. This group includes a girl who worked on Eugene McCarthy's presidential bid, a boy who fought in the 6-day war for Israel, a black militant, and a draft dodger from California. The first six chapters (about half the book) introduce these characters and offer an interesting view of the time period. I can highly recommend this part.

It was here that Barack Obama's election is predicted. After a discussion of the various failings of the black community, they are compared to the Irish.
The protestants had all sorts of jokes about the Irish, and they were true, but they were also irrelevant. Because in time the Irish learned. They began to elect honest politicians. And they learned to hire honest clerks. And after a couple of generations, America found itself with Jack Kennedy. The patience paid off.
Once the characters are introduced the tale bogs down into talking heads philosophizing about youth, age, truth, and politics. The first word I considered as I slogged through the second half of the book was "boring," but "silly" also came to mind. The book is also obsessed with Black Muslims.
[Mohamadism] spoke directly to the problems of the black man, in that it was above all else a religion that made revenge respectable.
Within ten years Muslims all over the world will be talking about a holy war to rescue their brothers in America.
These predictions, along with much pompous pontification, make the story seem dated and foolish. The lack of action leaves the reader struggling to stay awake for the second half of the book. However, if you have the discipline to stop reading after the initial character sketches - certainly long enough to be a novel in their own right - the book will be a most enjoyable (re)visit into the 1960s.

LGBT Book Watch: The book discusses that one option to avoid the Vietnam draft is to convince your draft board that you're a homosexual. This is done by taking a photograph of yourself naked kneeling in front of naked man.
"But don't you realize a photograph like that could ruin your life?"
"With whom? ... Maybe years from now a photo like that dated 1970 will be a badge of honor."

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