Skip to main content

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Mr President swears in your ear.
I have long been a quiet admirer of Barack Obama. Not just for the obvious race-guilt reasons, which creep into my thoughts on occasion, for no other reason that I'm white, of the lower middle class (or upper working class) and smugly safe behind my liberal WASP upbringing and need something to feel guilty about. Firstly for his role as a reluctant trail-blazer for African Americans; in a country where there are [fill in the number yourselves] million people of African descent, it's quite amazing that one of them hasn't been voted in as POTUS before now, so being the first is not only a great victory for equality, much like when Obama got his job at a law firm it is also a burning shame. For America. Me, I couldn't give a monkey's, race-guilt or no race-guilt. Secondly, he looks and acts like a man of class, in the non-pejorative sense, a man who would make a good friend, be noble and upright about the right things, and flexible about the others. Nothing in this audiobook (well, nearly nothing, but read on for more on that!) takes away this impression I formed just from listening to his victory speech when he made Senator in 2005. Thirdly, he's not one of the George Bushes, in fact is so far from being another George Bush that it's hard to believe they were born on the same continent. He makes Democrats look less like uncertain Republicans and more like - shocked gasp! - British Socialists, in the non-pejorative sense. No matter that he and his party is still way right of centre, as befits a country of [insert your own xenophobic bias / jingoistic hooting here]. The majority of the policies he's implemented or attempted to implement have been worthy, notable changes to the status quo of American internecine and / or bipartisan politicking, and he just talks so much sense! I truly do admire him, particularly within his current context, both political and social.

For these reasons I have toyed with the idea of buying his books for a while, but since I had the opportunity to plunder my now estranged wife's iTunes account before I left, I pilfered this Audible version instead. It was a good choice! As it transpired, the very best thing by far in this account of a young man discovering his antecedents and his place in the world, better than the well-written, thoughtful introspection, meditative and self-aware; better even than the humour and poise with which Obama puts across his points, his thoughts on the African American experience, referencing luminaries like Malcolm X and his bestest buddy preacher in the whole wide world Reverend Jeremiah Alvesta Wright Jr.; better even than the fact that Obama narrates this audiobook himself with his wonderfully measured and soothing voice; bestest of all the best bits is the first time Obama as narrator drops the F-bomb, followed by the N-bomb, and them further F-, N- B- and MF- incendiaries across the chapters that follow. I admit I tittered aloud, walking the dark and menacing streets of Splott late in the evening, so that a scary man at a bus stop turned away either in fear or disgust. The President of the United States of America is swearing in my ear! It's great. In a conversation with LA ex-pat pal and one quarter of the black people in his school / college (I forget which), the back-and-forth has b*****s, n*****s, f***s and m*********s. This is the President I'm talking about! Admittedly, he's not the President at this point, back when he was narrating this in 2007 or so, but he must have had an inkling that a mere two years later he'd be sworn in. Did he not think of the consequences of him talking about smoking reefers, drinking to excess and talking about b*****s? No wonder he's only getting two terms as POTUS*.

So for all these reasons, I would urge you all to throw away your paper copies, dog-eared and broken-spined, well-loved copies though they might be, and go get yourself this version on audiobook. It's ace.


*I know full well the restriction in place of only having two consecutive terms in office. Don't insult me with your expostulations.


Comments

How's about that then?

The Elephant by Sławomir Mrożek

It’s a wonder that Sławomir Mrożek lived to be 83. Maybe the post-Stalin regimes of Georgy Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev were less likely to pitch a critical satirist into an unmarked grave or have him dragged off to winter in Siberia than was Uncle Joe. Maybe he just wasn’t widely read and therefore not deemed a threat. Or perhaps his support of the Stalinist persecution of religious leaders in Poland and his membership of the Polish United Workers’ Party (until he defected) stood him in historical stead good enough so that he didn’t find himself on the sharp end of a radioactive umbrella. Because frankly, having read The Elephant, published in 1957 but not banned until 1968, it’s hard to see anyone in the Soviet bureaucracy letting this level of criticism go unpunished.
Take the titular story, The Elephant, one of 42 similarly absurd political satires in this slim volume. A provincial zoo, lacking “all the important animals” is awarded an elephant by the Party, muc…

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

Hi, how’ve you been? I’ve been busy myself, thanks for asking. In fact, I was so busy I began contemplating a terminal hiatus from this, ostensibly purposeless endeavour. However, for reasons, I chose not to take it. So on with the show and back to Helen DeWitt.
If there’s one thing about this dense, frankly mind-bogglingly erudite book to love/find empathy with (apart from my own Canadian edition’s deckle-edged hardbackedness – deckle edges; good or bad? Discuss!), it would have to be the passages narrated by Sibylla, mother to genius progeny Ludo. As a parent to one post-toddler and one pre-toddler, as well as occasional taker-up-of-space in the lives of three other young human beings, there are so very few occasions where a simple conversation can be carried out to its logical terminus without interruption and digression; conversations start, stop, return to the beginning, are interrupted once more, are delayed and postponed, and cycle back again until it’s time to give up, get off …

The Last Werewolf Trilogy by Glen Duncan

A trilogy of werewolf novels, the remaining three books of Duncan’s published oeuvre left for me to read, and I’ve gone and devoured them all in one go. I’ve made similar mistakes before; reading every single book I could find by one author as soon as they’re found. It usually ends up in a colossal mess of plot lines, meaning and symbolism in the gray matter, and an inability to unravel one from the other and explain, convincingly, to anyone why they should be read – especially challenging when one’s former job was to sell books to people on the strength of personal recommendations. Nonetheless, I decided that to read these three contiguously made sense, in so far as I have a strong distaste at being left hanging on for the next instalment, be it television series’, serialised print articles or trilogies. And, *COP OUT KLAXON* to review them in one Mega Review Article was the way forward too. So, here’s the quick and habitual disclaimer / plea for clemency. This way, you’ll have to de…

The One from the Other by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is an author I have been reluctant to attempt to review for some time. His Berlin Noir trilogy cost me some hours of sleeplessness and in the end I decided to skip a review and just be happy to have read it and therefore move it from the pile of unread novels, via the edge of my desk where the “to review” pile occasionally falls over on to the typewriter and spills my pen pot across the floor and thus causes significant risks when stumbling blindly about the room at night too drunk to remember where my bed is or having just been jolted awake by the boy shrieking from the next room and running asleep into walls and doors, to the back half of my giant Ikea bookcase where novels that have been read and have caused my self-esteem to shatter on the diamond-hard edges of someone else’s talent currently reside, gathering dust and moisture until hitting the mildew tipping point and becoming physically dangerous in their own right. This awesome crew consists mainly of Will Self, Jo…