Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope” as Want to Read:
McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  823 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Is John McCain "For Real?"

That's the question David Foster Wallace set out to explore when he first climbed aboard Senator McCain's campaign caravan in February 2000. It was a moment when Mccain was increasingly perceived as a harbinger of change, the anticandidate whose goal was "to inspire young Americans to devote themselves to causes greater than their own self-interes
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Back Bay Books (first published September 1st 2000)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about McCain's Promise, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about McCain's Promise

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 30, 2008 karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfictions, dfw
im not really sure why this is being published now, when it was written for the ghost of election past, but im not going to complain because i love the dfw, and now i can rate it. greg will never catch me!!!
Jul 31, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it
"Salesman or leader or neither or both, the final paradox – the really tiny central one, way down deep inside all the other campaign puzzles' spinning boxes and squares that layer McCain – is that whether he's truly 'for real' now depends less on what is in his heart than on what might be in yours."
Although McCain has by now (2016) largely receded into history's shadows, the campaign trail of 2000 as recounted by DFW is still relevant. This is because DFW, as is his wont, asks the perennial qu
Nov 26, 2015 mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites

It’s Thanksgiving, 2015, and we’re in the throes of the craziest presidential campaign ever, because of one Donald J. Trump, so I decided to re-read Wallace’s essay about presidential campaigns, the 2000’s Republican’s campaign for its nominee. The contest was between George W. Bush and Senator John S. McCain. I wish I could gather all my family and friends around the fire this Thanksgiving and we could talk about politics and the campaign, after everyone reads this essay. Wallace takes us insid
John Wiswell
Sep 05, 2013 John Wiswell rated it it was amazing
In 2000, John McCain was beloved to both major parties in the U.S. and couldn't get the nomination from either. It was possible that if he ran against both candidates that he'd win, but of course that didn't happen. David Foster Wallace was embedded with McCain's campaign, doomed to lose out to George W. Bush, and shrewdly observed how McCain made messages out of himself, how the staff tried to manipulate those messages, and how the country refused to see the candidate as a complex human being. ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Jesse rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book-length meditation on McCain2000, originally a much shorter Rolling Stone piece. Part think-piece, part investigative journalism, it's just Wallace doing his humanist/pomo thing. Nonetheless, an interesting/necessary perspective on McCain as an extraordinarily intelligent and honorable man (a great reading on the meaning of McCain's time in the Hanoi Hilton) saying, ultimately, some very scary shit. Also, a lot of good stuff on the mechanics of contemporary campaigns, much of which ...more
Tom Stamper
Nov 01, 2016 Tom Stamper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is best described as David Foster Wallace's experience traveling with John McCain in the winter of 2000 as he tried to wrest the Republican nomination from George W. Bush. 16 years old and this story is already a period piece. It's easy to forget that McCain was treated like Prince Valiant by the media in 2000. He wouldn't get the same treatment in 2008 when the media had a new Prince. But the real story is less about McCain and how Wallace sees the political process.

Wallace comes to a con
Mikael Kuoppala
Mar 23, 2014 Mikael Kuoppala rated it liked it
The year 2000. Presidential elections were approaching in the U.S, with party primaries in full swing. At the time, Rolling Stone Magazine ran a feature on all of the main players. Author David Foster Wallace was tasked with following Republican candidate John McCain on his tour across the country. That original piece has been expanded for this book, which is actually quite an interesting meditation on the democratic process itself.

McCain ran against George W. Bush and obviously lost. He was the
Alex Johnson
Oct 05, 2008 Alex Johnson rated it it was amazing
I am not going to give you my summation (which will most likely be clumsy and fall short of the floor) of what underlying message D.F.W. conveyed in McCain's Promise (where is the italics option when it is needed (can we do something about this Goodreads please)) b/c it will only take away from what you'll get out of it if you read it yourself however if you read pages 123 & 124 starting with the only full paragraph on page 123 you will find that the why I did not want to give you my ...more
Billie Pritchett
McCain's Promise is a book adaptation of a long article by David Foster Wallace, first published in an abbreviated form in Rolling Stone, then in Wallace's essay collection Consider the Lobster. Wallace follows the 2000 campaign trail of John McCain and spends most of the pages of the book exploring the paradoxes of McCain and his campaign. For example, McCain marketed himself as a person who was not trying to sell citizens on a certain self-image--but that's precisely what marketing oneself is. ...more
Aug 31, 2014 Ed rated it did not like it

1 stars.

This short book has made me seriously reconsider my fetish for reading books in their entirety.

Years ago I got halfway thru the short version (15,900 words) of this essay then published at Rolling Stone in April 2000. Now I've finally read this much longer version (30,000 words), and I'm amazed at how poorly DFW's writing—his analysis, choices, concerns—has held up over the years. Maybe it was never all that good. Years ago I must have thought his writing was cutting-edge stuff; now it
Oct 06, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
This book is still relevant because the main ideas DFW explores has to do with navigating between the real and the packaged and how our own cynicism plays into how we approach voting or not voting. Apparently the publishers realized this too because the book came out in April or May of 2008 (the foreword was written in April).

DFW's analysis of the packaging of McCain (who at the time - 2000 - was the rebel/maverick of his party, not that I agree with that assessment, especially when you look at
Jan 05, 2014 Cory rated it really liked it
Finally got around to this DFW piece from 2000, where he guides the masse of Young Voters through how to think critically about where to place their vote and their cynicism -- via a behind-the-scenes look into a week on the McCain campaign trail.

Other reviews will tell you this -- this piece is less about McCain himself (though I've thankfully got a much more nuanced view of him now than I did before) than about the spinning, breathing, bizarre political gauntlet we go through every four years t
Mar 27, 2016 Mihai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the end, the Shrub won. McCain, the anticandidate of the 2000's could not stand a chance in a Republican Establishment bent on regaining the power, returning to the "good old days". We know how and when by watching TV, or reading the news. And we take the news as it is. Sent by the Rolling Stones mag. on McCain's campaign trail, David Foster Wallace chose a different approach in understanding the party politics, the Babel-like going and coming of political strategies. On top if it, he ...more
Oct 18, 2008 Zach rated it liked it
I love when DFW puts on his journalism hat for a romp through the absurd. Only he can write a piece like Big Red Son (which I read on a drive under Arizona's Big Red Sun - HIYO) about the adult movie industry and make it high brow and insightful as a book review of Fowler's Modern English Usage Dictionary. Anyway, like he does in Big Red, this is a fun quick essay on McCain's 2000 campaign, but in searching for "what's real" behind this new phenomenon "McCain," he inevitably deconstructs the ...more
Oct 19, 2008 Ira rated it really liked it
DFW's book on McCain's failed 2000 primary run vs. GWB was originally commissioned and published by Rolling Stone, though in a shorter form, and seems to be written for the Rolling Stone readership. The book is partly a 21st century mini-update on Tim Crouse's The Boys On The Bus and partly an essay on whether McCain, the candidate, was straight talk (like the bus he rode on) or bullshit (like the bus many of the press followed him on). Wallace, in his own way, writes of the daily routine of the ...more
E. C. Koch
Feb 22, 2016 E. C. Koch rated it it was amazing
Apart from J. Weisberg's intro. you're not getting anything here that you didn't get in the version printed in CtL; so it should be said right off the bat that you probably shouldn't buy this unless you just really need to read what Weisberg says about what Wallace says about McCain's now sixteen-year-old campaign or to complete a shrine or something. That said, this is a(nother) really great essay by DFW that hits on his major themes of sincerity and belief in a toxically aloof pomo culture ...more
Kristin Schuck
Mar 02, 2015 Kristin Schuck rated it really liked it
I read this because I've been trying to get my nerve up to read Infinite Jest. I've actually even checked IJ out from the library once or twice, but been too intimidated to crack it open. So I looked up David Foster Wallace's books at the library and checked out the best reviewed DFW book available. Just so happened to be only 144 pages (I think IJ has over 1,000 pages.)

This book was a piece that started as a far-shorter Rolling Stone article published during John McCain's failed 2000 run at th
Sep 23, 2015 T.J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's less about McCain the candidate (or even McCain the man), then it is about how the press that covers a campaign becomes part of it. It is also interesting in light of everything we've been talking about. Consider this description of political candidates:

", interesting, alive people do not seem to be the ones who are drawn to the political process. Think back to the sort of kids in high school or college who were into running for student office: dweeby, overgroomed, obsequious to auth
Jan 25, 2009 Ross rated it really liked it
I read this book, originally a long essay, for the late author, not the candidate. Still, this snap-shot from the 2000 campaign (specifically, from just after the post-New Hampshire afterglow through the first week or so of the brutally negative S.C. primary) makes one realize in a visceral, internalized way, as opposed to the obvious intellectual yes of course way, that McCain would have been a much better president than G.W. Bush. That our entire country would today be better off, and that ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Though initially presented, when published first by Rolling Stone, as an update on the McCain campaign from a source outside the self-feeding loop of political reportage (given that Wallace was neither a looming political advocate nor a journalist in any traditional sense) what's amazing is how well the themes of this essay fit together with those of Wallace's fiction, specifically on how ironic detachment makes sincere statement, political or personal, suspect if not impossible. Similar in tone ...more
Matt Heavner
Nov 01, 2014 Matt Heavner rated it really liked it
Great writing as always from DFW. Playful writing about an important topic - the role of hope and realism in politics (and advertising, which is what politics and elections has turned into). Not quite as fun and crazy as Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and I think Rolling Stone (where this was originally published) cut down on the usual DFW acronyms and footnotes - there were still some good acronyms (which I find help keep reader engagement) and a few footnotes. Although the topic is ...more
Ken Heard
Jan 21, 2014 Ken Heard rated it liked it
Rolling Stone puts a reporter on the bus of what first is a marginal candidate for president who becomes the front runner and tells him to write what he sees. Sound familiar? The magazine did the same in 1971 when Hunter S. Thompson covered the George McGovern campaign, and Thompson did a far better, more insightful job.

That's not to say David Foster Wallace failed. He did okay with his observations of life on the road, with behind the looks at John McCain and other reporters, with the "Twelve M
Aug 21, 2012 Gregory rated it it was amazing
It's somewhat silly that this is the only review that I've written so far, and that I'm writing a review for an examination of the 2000 Presidential election (and for a candidate who didn't win his primary even). BUT, much like Infinite Jest, "Up Simba" is prophetic and therefore timeless. Since this is David Foster Wallace, we are also treated to a mind-bogglingly detailed analysis of random yet related topics such as the difficulties of camera crews, life on the road as a member of the media, ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Amie rated it liked it
I selected this book because I wanted to read some of Mr. Wallace's work and this looked pretty short. Also, because, "really, he wrote a book about McCain?" [insert incredulous face here].

I really enjoyed this book. I realize it is dated as it covers the 2000 election and McCain is not running again. However, it isn't, in that much of what occurs during US elections is repeated over and over again. And I found myself thinking about Mr. Wallace's contention that those who don't turn in ballots
Alison Prendergast
Oct 11, 2008 Alison Prendergast rated it really liked it
In 1999, Rolling Stone went in search of four writers who were not political journalists to do articles on the four big presidential candidates. David Foster Wallace thought that McCain was "either incredibly honest and forthright, or else just insane" and so agreed to do the article. His article was waaaaay too long and the uncut version was published in the form of this book. What I'm sure of, so far, is that I'd like to read DFW's real books because after reading 20 pages of this ...more
James Schneider
Nov 18, 2012 James Schneider rated it really liked it
This is a really excellent longform piece of magazine reporting, written in DFW's usual essay voice - which is to say your narrator acts at 60 or so percent of his intellectual capacity to achieve a serious "aw shucks" sensibility around people he can then write about as craven, depraved, or insane. The events depicted here are certainly more "ecstatically true" in the Herzogian sense than factually true, but I personally have no problem with this, as DFW has never really taken himself to be a ...more
Dec 29, 2013 Eva rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this more than I usually enjoy DFW's essays. It was quite accessible and a quick read. I hadn't really realized, though, that he doesn't actually ever interact with McCain while doing the research for this article; instead, he depends on others' assessments of McCain. It's still a really interesting meditation on politics, integrity, and American society, but it's as much about the author than it is about the supposed subject. I got the sense that DFW in many ways was envious of McCain's ...more
Jul 02, 2009 Derek rated it liked it
Shelves: social
Everything that could be said about this book is covered by Weisberg [of Slate:] in the Foreward. I also agree with Weisberg's small criticism of the roadies/techs having a special savvy that could out-insight the others. It's a cliche--and surprisingly, DFW acknowledges all other cynical cliches except that one. It was very interesting to read this post-Nov08; a reminder of how McCain used to be regarded, and what an effective job both the Obama camp and Palin selection did to dismantle that ...more
Kitt Crescenzo
Jun 24, 2008 Kitt Crescenzo marked it as to-read
Reed just finished this. We saw it at the book store and thought "Wow David Foster Wallace, the David Foster Wallace, covering politics? This has to be something special." Reed says its the most cynical book he's ever read (and Reed's read all of Foster Wallace and all of my book Russian faves that i force on him so thats saying something). It follows the republican 2000 South Carolina primary, if that gives you any indication of the book's tone. I will let you know if it's worth it cynical, or ...more
Mar 26, 2012 Doug rated it really liked it
Seeing the 2000 McCain campaign, and presidential politics in general, through DFW's eye's was fascinating. He is able to put to words the feelings of unease, mistrust, alienation and/or apathy that many people feel toward politicians. DFW is a political outsider, but he cuts to the heart of politics faster than anyone I know. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone with a political bone in their body, or anyone wondering why there isn't a political bone in their body.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Up, Simba republished? 3 41 Dec 12, 2008 02:38PM  
  • Understanding David Foster Wallace
  • No One Left to Lie to: The Values of the Worst Family
  • Consider David Foster Wallace
  • Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
  • McSweeney's #14
  • The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice
  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide
  • Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles
  • The Legacy of David Foster Wallace
  • Radical Priorities
  • The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin
  • Conversations with Edward Said
  • Renegade: The Making of a President
  • The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader
  • Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
  • Style Deficit Disorder: Harajuku Street Fashion - Tokyo
  • The Bush Tragedy
  • Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens
David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it ...more
More about David Foster Wallace...

Share This Book

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.” 996 likes
“In fact, the likeliest reason why so many of us care so little about politics is that modern politicians makes us sad, hurt us deep down in ways that are hard even to name, much less talk about.” 10 likes
More quotes…