Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’16: 68 More Days of Wallowing in Muck
For whatever reason (drugs) “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” gets more attention but Thompson’s recounting of the 1972 presidential campaign is the more horrific drug trip (since a nation preparing to re-elect Nixon is more frightening than reporting on a dune buggy race while on mescaline).
For our September BookMarx book club we are going to be discussing Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (Thursday September 22 at 7:00 pm). The new edition (new copies available for 20% off the list price) features a new introduction by current Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibbi.
Since we are 68 days away from yet another “Most important election of our lifetime!” — hyperbole that arises every four years even in a bland election like the 1996 Clinton v. Dole v. Perot election, I am going to recommend some election season reading to 1) provide reassurance that, despite more hyperbole, it has been this bad before and 2) remind everyone how horrible the system and everything else is.
One of the most upsetting things about Alex Jones’s Lizard People and 9/11 nonsense conspiracy mongering is how completely unnecessary they are to expose the actual problems at the root of 21st century American politics. NY Times reporter Mark Leibovich’s maddening 2013 book This Town gets to the core of what is exactly wrong with Washington. It’s a town run by moneyed ghouls more concerned with invitations to cocktail and book release parties (for books that no one outside of D.C. cares about — the day someone sincerely asks me for a copy of Chris Matthews’s Life’s a Campaign, I’ll tattoo his face over my heart) than actual policy. The anecdotes in this book are horrifying. Leibovich’s book manages to be funny and infuriating at the same time in the way that Thompson’s Fear and Loathing ’72 is.
Ron Perlstein’s Nixonland is the kind of book I have and will continue to back people into corners at parties to allow me to expound on its brilliance. Both a cultural history of the 1960’s and early 70’s and an insightful look at the life and presidency of Richard Nixon, Perlstein creates a gripping account of a story to which we already know the bumbling ending. This is the second volume of Perlstein’s planned four part series chronicling the rise of modern conservative: Before the Storm concerns the life and influence of Barry Goldwater, and his most recent The Invisible Bridge, focuses on President Reagan. Perlstein somehow manages to evoke pathos for the historical maligned Nixon, the awkward (Don’t tell a woman you are going to marry her on your first date, Rich, sheesh. Not a baller move.) and diligent working class Nixon constantly defeated by the blue-blooded establishment who never respected him.
Want to focus specifically on this election? This is currently available:
In February 2000, during the heated GOP primary between George W. Bush and John McCain, David Foster Wallace went on the road on the “Straight Talk Express” with Sen. McCain to chronicle his insurgent campaign for Rolling Stone. The piece “Up, Simba” was re-released ahead of the 2008 election as a stand alone book entitled McCain’s Promise. It is the typical thought-provoking examination of contemporary politics one expects from Wallace. Note: Don’t buy the cash grab, but get it in Wallace’s essay collection Consider the Lobster, and for about the same price, also get a 62 page review of a dictionary that is, I swear, page-turning.
Only 68 more days of this: