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Thursday, June 5, 2008

About a (Slightly) Younger John McCain

posted by on June 5 at 12:00 PM


In 2000, Rolling Stone ran an essay by David Foster Wallace, in which the author rode on John McCain’s Straight Talk Express for a few weeks. Wallace, of course, is one of the smartest human beings on earth—I generally prefer his essays to his fiction, incidentally—and the essay is pretty great. Wallace kind of falls under McCain’s spell, though not so much that he’d actually vote for him.

Back Bay Books is repackaging the essay, which can also be found in Wallace’s last book of essays, Consider the Lobster, as a standalone, $10 book called McCain’s Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope. I would suggest buying Consider the Lobster instead, because for four bucks more, you get about six extra essays, including the title essay which considers whether lobsters actually feel pain when you boil them.

Thing is, and hopefully the foreword to the book will acknowledge this, 2000 John McCain and 2008 John McCain are entirely different beasts. The Wall Street Journal talked with Wallace about this last week:

The essay quite specifically concerns a couple weeks in February, 2000, and the situation of both McCain [and] national politics in those couple weeks. It is heavily context-dependent. And that context now seems a long, long, long time ago. McCain himself has obviously changed; his flipperoos and weaselings on Roe v. Wade, campaign finance, the toxicity of lobbyists, Iraq timetables, etc. are just some of what make him a less interesting, more depressing political figure now—for me, at least. It’s all understandable, of course—he’s the GOP nominee now, not an insurgent maverick. Understandable, but depressing.

I (heart) David Foster Wallace.

(UPDATE: I forgot to say “via Galleycat.” Sorry Galleycat.)

RSS icon Comments


Please don't call Wallace one of the smartest human beings on earth. Let me guess, you think that Malcolm Gladwell and Miranda July round out the top three. Raise your standards, people!

Posted by Gabriel | June 5, 2008 12:16 PM

I can't name my absolute favorite movie or band, but Infinite Jest is certainly my favorite book ever. I told my friend at work I was reading it and she said, "How grad school. What's next, Don DeLillo?" So I went out and bought some Don DeLillo.

Posted by skweetis | June 5, 2008 12:47 PM

I heart DFW way, way more. If not one of the smartest human beings on earth, certainly one of the smartest writers.

Posted by Superfurry Animal | June 5, 2008 12:47 PM

Ha! Ya took the words out my mouth!

Posted by sf | June 5, 2008 1:05 PM

Not to mention McCain's complete turnaround on torture (now enthusiastically pro) and executive privilege (now "virtually dictatorial powers").

Posted by Fnarf | June 5, 2008 1:08 PM

thx 4 the link.

Posted by maud newton | June 5, 2008 1:09 PM

Love DFW and this essay. Old news, but his "A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again" made me laugh until I plotzed.

Posted by Gidget | June 5, 2008 1:19 PM

@6: You're right. I forgot to put the via in. I will correct it. Thanks and sorry.

But the place I read about this wasn't actually from Maud Newton, though after I read your comment I discovered that Maud mentioned it. It was from Galleycat.

@1: Have you read Wallace's book on infinity? It's pretty goddamned smart, and it's one of the few books on math, outside of Feynman, that actually taught me something, and I'm really bad at math. And, no, though I'm fond of Miranda July, I don't think she's one of the smartest people on Earth. Malcolm Gladwell is a tool.

Posted by Paul Constant | June 5, 2008 1:40 PM

Republicans are so ugly.

Posted by michael strangeways | June 5, 2008 4:16 PM

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