Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Long Time Coming

Where were you when the world changed? On the Mall in DC? Huddled around a TV in an office? Alas, I was in a meeting discussing library statistics. Ah well, the big day was election day back in November anyway. Besides, I watched President Obama's fine speech online at lunch without the glitches or lagginess that the live online feed had for some. Regardless - a momentous day for our friends south of the 49 and a pretty darn good one for the rest of the world.
For those of us toiling in the salt mines of books and words, Obama's election is gratifying as finally the smart guy won! Perhaps the tide has turned for anti-intellectualism as the go-to play in political playbooks. Elvin T. Lim has some thoughts on this in his recent book, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush. Clearly Lim's book went to press before he heard a few of Obama's speeches, for the book flap notes:"Why has it been so long since an American president has effectively and consistently presented reasoned, intellectually substantive arguments to the American public?"

Interestingly, George W. Bush may have seen the tide turning, for up popped "Bush's Brain", Karl Rove, in the Washington Post this week with a rather surprising tale ("Bush is a Book Lover") of how he and Bush are actually bookish men. Indeed, they have an annual contest to see who can read the most books. I agree with Martin Levin in his Globe & Mail Books blog post: "Excuse me, but I'm skeptical: When does somebody with that (presumed) workload have time to read a book-and-a-half a week? .... [Bush] simply didn't talk about books, or refer to them. He doesn't seem bookish."

Obama is not shy about making his reading choices known. He might just make reading cool! Motoko Rich even asked in the New York Times, "For Books, Is Obama the New Oprah?" Iconic book reviewer Michiko Kakutani made a case that "From Books, New President Found Voice", and included "A Reading List That Shaped a President":
Other books Obama has been identified with recently:
We may test this turn in the tide soon if we have a federal election in Canada. We'll see if Michael Ignatieff is demonized as a pointy-headed intellectual just like Stephane Dion was last time. Ignatieff has at least a dozen books to his name, with his latest, True Patriot Love, being rushed into publication for this spring.


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