Monday, May 31, 2010

The Bridge by David Remnick

The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama

This dense and detailed look at a moment in history when Obama began his run for the White House gives the reader the sense of a blind man running his hands over an elephant, or of Galileo gazing at the stars. The detail just makes one jealous to know those things we are not reading about--what was he thinking, not just what he was saying. One wants the man himself, not just the story of him.

In the end, every book about this period is bound to be a disappointment in itself. It cannot capture the utter impossibility of the moment--the day by day disbelief of hearing Obama is still in the race and gaining, rather than losing, adherents. Of Obama facing challenges (Reverend Wright) greater than those that had brought down more conventional candidates (Kerry's Swift boat controversy), and emerging even larger than before. It does not tell us, finally, how this happened, though it attempts to explain fragments of the whole.

But among books of the period, this will rank among the best. Remick's calm amidst the forest of details and clear, thoughtful delivery make him a companionable guide. He is not so casual as to make one doubt his sources, but he does not flaunt his access. This must be one of the most readable tomes on a time when America suprised everyone--even Americans.

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