Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Politics: Clinton and Polarization

Andrew Sullivan quotes a reader of his who says, essentially, "Damn right Hillary Clinton is polarizing! That's what I like about her! I'm going to vote for her just to stick a thumb in the eye of all the people who hate her so much!" It's kind of ugly. But happily, the conversation gets picked up by Kevin Drum in a post that argues, interestingly, that Hilary Clinton isn't technically "polarizing." He makes, to my mind, a suprisingly good case, and I'm not even a big Hilary fan. Check it out here. I love any writer who can tease out subtler distinctions from a black-and-white position.

LATER: I've been thinking ever since: perhaps they're simply describing two different parts of the same phenomenon. It's an interesting philosophical question, in a way: if her politics aren't polarizing, but her persona is, then where does the polarization come from? Goodness knows there's no more conservative Democrat on the market. Any Republicans who burn entire mints to take her down, if they succeed, will only find themselves dragged further left by Obama or Edwards. But they'd rather maintain their hatred than adjust their strategy. Why would they do that? Can anyone calmly explain--or send a link to an explanation--of why the far right hates Hilary so very much? I hope it's something less visceral than that she's an ambitious woman who isn't obedient, which is the only thing I can think that might make someone hate Hilary while liking Condoleezza and Libby Dole.

Of course, all this speculation is presuming that anyone listens to Republicans at all. We're definitely gong to have a Democratic President next time around, because the party has still refused to break with Bush The Lead Balloon, and the only guy with traction--Rudy--is not only batshit insane, but is so arrogant he doesn't even hide his looniness. (And, of course, he'll remind many people of the most hated President in the last fifty years.) When the race is down to two, he's going to implode hugely, and send a significant portion of the religionist electorate after a third-party spoiler. Continuing to hate Hilary, it seems to me, will only make the fallout for the Republicans even worse.

EVEN LATER: Sorry, I think I've just figured it out. Perhaps she's polarizing because she's potentially successful at implementing policies (universal health care?) that certain right-wingers want completely off the table. Duh. I figured this out, by the way, by thinking about (ahem) the Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. They occupy roughly the same niche--fantasy centered on children, suitable for both young and adult readers--but Pullman should be far more polarizing, because his overt worldview is that God is dead and the Church is evil. (Sorry if I gave away the ending!) He's explicitly religious and blasphemous at the same time. No Christian can read his books without having to engage with that. But no one's burning Philip Pullman, and they do burn Harry Potter, because so many fewer people read Pullman. And the people who burn Harry Potter are the absolutists of the lot: the no-perspective, unimaginative yahoos who believe that mentioning magic is the same thing as advocating for Satanism. So they're reacting futilely against the popularity of something that offends them deeply, but they don't have any logical arguments to convince people, so all they can do is resort to public violent demonstration.

I have a new theory, then: the second someone's book gets burned, it's a tacit admission that the burners are announcing they've already lost. (That was true of the Beatles, too, come to think.)

My prediction: When The Golden Compass comes out this winter and it does well (and it should, if the trailers are anything to go by), then the religious right will sit up and notice. And then they'll burn Pullman. Sigh.

Okay. Must pack!



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