Too Clever…

… by half. Isn’t that the expression?

Here is an intelligent –and lengthy– analysis of Dreams from My Father. It places Barack Obama’s book within the rich tradition of African-American memoir, citing names like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Richard Wright. After all the academic stuff, the author makes some attempt to measure out his praise. But it kinda glops out of the cup on him.

The quality that most distinguishes Obama’s writing is its clarity. It sparkles like sugar crystals. His writing feels balanced and just. Although not meticulously systematic, it proceeds with the lucidity that characterizes a legal mind. His thinking is marked by a bright, positive, and outward-looking unselfconsciousness. Dreams from My Father lacks the penetrative depths of Souls of Black Folk, or the Dostoyevskian complexities of Black Boy and Invisible Man. The writer is guided less by logic, finally, than by vision.

Oh, yeah, the vision thing. And don’t forget those sugar crystals. And all that lucidity that characterizes the legal mind. (Sorry, I can’t help thinking of Joe Biden here.)

Anyway. Me (along with Jack Cashill and Andrew McCarthy), I might want to ask a couple of real simple-minded questions.

1. What parts of Dreams are true and what parts are not?

2. How much help did Obama get in putting all that sparkle into his prose?

It’s probably legitimate, in discussing Obama’s first book, to invoke the canon of African-American autobiography (might want to leave out Alex Haley though, what with his plagiarism problems and all).

We still kinda need to keep the basics in mind, don’t we? Or is this conspiratorial thinking? Sometimes I can’t figure out where that starts and ends.


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