The Real McCain

Wallace is occasionally mistaken for a pomo ironist, generally by people who have not actually read one of his books or can't get past the casino glitter of his prose style. In fact, he's as serious a moralist as, say, Tom Wolfe; he's just interested in finding moral gravity in unexpected places. Which means he's got a pretty serious crush on McCain's public persona—the candidate's war heroism counts for a lot with Wallace, because it gives his campaign-trail boilerplate about truth and sacrifice actual weight. But Wallace also makes the crucial distinction between admiring the pitch (and the seriousness and honesty it represents, or appears to represent) and what McCain is actually selling, which he dispatches with a swift blow to the sternum: "That John S. McCain III opposed making Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday in AZ, or that he thinks clear-cut logging is good for America, or that he feels our present gun laws are not clinically insane—this stuff counts for nothing with these Town Hall crowds, all on their feet, cheering their own ability to finally really fucking cheer."


Up, Simba! 7 Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate
By David Foster Wallace, $4.95

Ultimately, he can't quite bring himself to believe in McCain, mostly because he can't get a handle on what's behind the image. U, S! becomes a profile of the campaigning process— and of what exactly it takes to get the electorate to care about a candidate—rather than of the candidate himself. McCain's departure from the race doesn't make U, S! any less timely. As the election looms, it probably wouldn't hurt to make it available to people without high-speed Internet connections, either.

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