MacK's Reviews > Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics

Primary Colors by Joe Klein
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Apr 26, 09

bookshelves: contemporary, am-lit
Read in December, 2007

It starts out slowly, ploddingly, irritatingly. Just like most election campaigns. You see things develop bit-by-bit inch-by-inch, see characters begin to define themselves, see conflicts begin to emerge, and find yourself wishing time or the pages would go faster so you could get to the end.

Then it suddenly explodes into a frenzy of kinetic energy as though the author went on an amphetemine binge, chasing the whole thing down with a vat of red bull. Which, my half-baked mind believes, may well be the breakfast of champions of many election aides.

This is where Primary Colors is at its best. When it ignores its own self referential nature, when it forgoes the obvious parrallellism to the Clinton campaign of 1992, when it simply revels in the primary process, frantic, chaotic and almost wholly without conscious.

Most surprisingly of all, when it slows down again, into a slow, embarassed recounting of mudraking cruelty, is when it reaches perhaps the zenith of its story telling. The ideals and dreams that flow into a heart whenever the strains of The West Wing opening credits play, the hopes and dreams of people who want to make a difference or change the political system, turn to foul, putrid, ashes. Your heroes, if you had any while reading it, fall, your dreams end not in nightmares, but in the slow, tremulous opening of eyelids to find the same walls, the same alarm clock, the same vapid conviction-free career politicians spouting nonsense, just like always.

Yet, oddly, the book ends with a whimper. Feebly limping into the last pages, before presenting a complex, near-Faustian choice for its protaganists. But all it does is present it. And while you want your eyelids to be heavy, while you want to wash out the ashes with a Listerine waterfall, you're too jaded to want to know how it ends.

But just jaded enough, to be glad you don't have to deal with politics...until you go home again.
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