Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Consuming Consummations: "I Am Love"



The opening scenes of Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love immediately evoked memories of a great film that I was never able to finish. The stunning European architecture, the unabashedly depressing gray and snowfall, and the presentation of a family coming together for a special occasion had me mentally referring to the almost grotesque Christmas scenes in Ingmar Bergman's Fanny And Alexander. I generally love classic and contemporary European cinema, and I was expecting great things from what many would say is one of Bergman's best films. However, I was only able to watch roughly an hour and a half of it before bailing out, and the student in me felt like a philistine for not seeing it through to the end. That said, I felt a pang of trepidation in I Am Love's introductory scenes, all because of the stylistic connections. Of course, I truly didn't expect Guadagnino's film to follow the same path, and I found myself quietly compelled by the early beauty amongst the depressing, hidden wide shots. And whatever I expected in those first twenty minutes, whether outwardly or subconsciously, was put to rest throughout the film's entirety.

The beauty of I Am Love is that it's a film of nuances and blunt emotions, as well as a combination of the expected and the unexpected. The Recchis, a wealthy family with a lucrative textile company, gather for a birthday dinner held for their aging patriarch. Despite their opulent estate and team of cooks and housekeepers, they're completely focused on the party at hand, but there is an undercurrent of worry as to how the grandfather will accept the party. A few subplots are introduced, all of them with strong indications of causing problems: the young son Edoardo (Flavio Parenti) is bringing a new girlfriend to the party, a young woman from a less wealthy family; earlier in the day, Edoardo lost a race to a young chef, much to the dismay of his grandfather; and one of the granddaughters gives her grandfather a framed photograph as a gift, when the tradition is that his artistically inclined grandchildren give him paintings for him to hang. Yes, in hindsight, these may seem like laughable, bourgeoisie "problems," but the acting and editing gives these issues true, heightened worry. The audience expects a major fight or blow-up, but it never happens. These subplots give way to the more important outcomes of the dinner party: the grandfather announces his retirement, giving control of the textile company to Edoardo and his son (Edoardo's father) Tancredi. As the party winds down, Antonio, the chef who beat Edoardo, visits with a cake, a sort of peace offering for the results of the earlier competition.

This is an impressive collection of plot points for what is really just the opening of the film, and as the film progresses, a few more come into play as I Am Love jumps ahead to a few months after the party. Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), Tancredi's wife, discovers that her daughter is a lesbian. Edoardo and Antonio (played by the very impressive Edoardo Gabbriellini) become close friends and potential partners in Antonio's dream to open a small restaurant in the elusive Italian countryside. Once again, this assortment of developments could steer the film into a dizzying, Magnolia-esque character study. However, a few of the items I've mentioned above either get put to the side or altogether forgotten, and in so many other instances, this could be viewed as poor film-making. I think I can make these statements without veering into spoiler territory, but the film quickly becomes a study of two different happenings. One, Emma and Antonio begin a heated love affair. Two, Edoardo proves himself to be a genuinely compassionate young man, which leads to tensions as a businessman.

The affair begins and ends with food. The attraction is almost immediate between Antonio and Emma, with the occasional glance and the occasional tic of worry that Tilda Swinton can pull of like no other actress. When dining with the women of the family at Antonio's restaurant, Emma falls for him even more while eating the dish he has prepared. The camera cuts between her face, which is tinted with sexual arousal, and closeups of the meal as it quickly disappears. Food and love/sex have been hallmarks of European cinema for decades now, and Emma's reaction is not played for comedic overindulgence, a la When Harry Met Sally. She's genuinely enamored with the meal, and the realization that it was prepared by Antonio simply makes her feelings that much more heightened. This is an excellent scene, and it becomes much more relevant at the film's conclusion, albeit with drastic consequences. The majority of Emma and Antonio's lovemaking is conventional, for lack of better words, except for their second meeting. Perhaps she viewed their first encounter as a fling and nothing more, but their second time is marked by the realization that more emotions are at stake beyond lust. Antonio undresses her in complete silence, and Emma offers no resistance. Her face is fearful, but her eyes imply that she's falling for Antonio deeply.

I Am Love is not "about" the affair, nor is it "about" the Recchi family as individuals or as a unit. Everything is connected, even if closure never comes to some of the film's potential climaxes. This is the rare film that mixes the everyday with the ambiguous, and while it's tempting to simply apply the labels of "philosophical" and "sociological," there is so much more at stake. Yes, the actions and character decisions have their philosophical undertones, and yes, staging the actions among a wealthy family calls into question ideas of class, emotion, and sociology. However, despite these accuracies, it would be unwise to pigeonhole or confine the film to a select few adjectives.

The acting in I Am Love is nearly perfect and gets a lot of emotional mileage out of understatement. Tilda Swinton's portrayal of Emma is compelling in the most literal sense. The course of the film suggests that she's headed for an emotional breakdown, and while this is true, it's handled very quietly and honestly. Swinton neither overacts or "underacts," and her facial expressions and body language are gripping. Her face can veer from ecstatic to nervous very quickly, but rarely is it obvious. Her eyes widen, her lips get tense, and her shoulders hunch, only hinting at what's going on in Emma's mind. Her Italian accent feels flawless, especially since she's holding her own with native Italian speakers. Flavio Parenti starts Edoardo off as a handsome, entitled young man, but the character goes beyond those stereotypical beginnings. He loves his wife, he's honorable, and he's undoubtedly devoted to Antonio, even though the young chef could have been a rival at the beginning. His failings as a businessman come about only because he's uneasy about layoffs and selling the family's company. These ideas aren't dragged out, but even in Italian cinema, American ideals are presented: nice, honorable people rarely seem to fit the bill as successful company presidents. Edoardo Gabbriellini makes Antonio much more than the standard young love interest. He's not callous about his affair with Emma, and a wonderful scene shows him shaking and fidgeting when they meet following their first tryst.

Guadagnino's direction is playful and creative without being a distraction, and combined with Yorick Le Saux's cinematography, I Am Love is one of the year's most visually gorgeous films. Shadows give way to blinding sunlight, and a lot of the scenes are hidden or filtered, whether through thick countryside foliage, door windows, reflections, or elaborate building designs. Perceptions might be obvious with some of the characters, but how they view everyone else is sometimes left up in the air. Guadagnino directs this idea by hiding what we know is happening (a countryside sex scene, for example), or intentionally making the points of view distracted or confined (below is a shot of Antonio in the kitchen).



The only real production problem in the film is the score by classical composer John Adams. For the most part, it's beautiful, but at times, it's distracting. It blends beautifully with the opening title sequence, which is done through heavy snow. However, a part of the score is played during a love scene between Antonio and Emma. The strings and intensity rise as she gets closer to orgasm, and it gets to the point that it's an insult to perception. We can clearly see that she's aroused, yet the score keeps getting more frantic. I'm not at all versed or educated in music theory or the intuitions of film scoring, but that one scene very nearly brought down the entire score as a whole. Perhaps if it had been done more casually, it might have worked, but for a film in which understatement goes such a long way, a blatant musical accentuation goes against the subtleties.

As this essay may very well prove, I Am Love is one of the more thought-provoking films I've seen this year. However, for the amount of discussion points and plot developments, I feel that I've left quite a few of the film's meanings up in the air or untouched. "Thought-provoking" may seem like a cop-out, but this is a film that works on thoughts, both of the characters, their intentions, and what the viewer ultimately decides should be the film's message. I Am Love is about family, or it's about individuals. It's about contemporary class, or it's about classic emotions. Or, as I mentioned above, it's best to put the ideas of "about" aside, and simply absorb the terrific ambition, casting, and production.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Smoke and Mirrors



Roughly halfway through my reading of Michael Wolraich's Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior Into a Raging Homosexual, I realized that the majority of my non-fiction readings in the past few months have been political works. I read books based on a variety of emotions or intentions, and the recent political bent has been no different. I read Hunter S. Thompson around the time of the November midterm elections and found some great parallels; I went into Tony Judt's final book with the hope of better understanding his philosophies. My reasons for reading Mr. Wolraich's book might not be as noble, but sometimes, offbeat reasoning can be beneficial. I selected the book based on its title, and because I felt that it would be a quick read before getting into some more complex writings. This could have been an insult to a relatively unknown writer, along with the fact that I knew from the outset that it would lean toward my own political views; in other words, I knew it would be a work that I would digest in agreement. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, bookshelves across the country sag (literally) with left and right-wing rantings. However, in Wolraich, there's a new voice that's often lacking in political discourse. He's not going to win any friends on the right, but he goes into his critiques with a smile and a big dose of research. A lot of these issues are not laughing matters, but sometimes, one has to laugh even in the face of a scary national landscape.

Blowing Smoke presents a lot of examples of conservative paranoia, most of which are linked by the idea of persecution politics. It's not always the case, but for the most part, right-wing supporters and commentators take critiques and dissent very personally, sometimes morphing them into reverse discrimination. Disagreements become persecutions of someone's (in this case, "someone" being the conservative base) livelihood. The below example is a look at the early Christian right's battle against secular life. It's also an excellent example of Wolraich's use of sly humor, noted when he mentions former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry:

"In addition to the IRS and the Department of Education, conservatives hunted down secular humanists in the courts and in nonprofit organizations like the National Education Association, the American Library Association, NOW, the NAACP, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and People For an American Way, to name a few. They also accused secular humanists of controlling the United Nations, Hollywood, and the media. Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, whose political opinions were important because of his coaching record, warned the audience of a massive prayer rally that secular humanism was 'sweeping America (Wolraich 43)."

The notion of being persecuted can also manifest itself as paranoia and conspiracy theories. I would imagine that Wolraich would agree with Charles P. Pierce in the opinion that conspiracies and wildly outlandish ideas are essential parts of the First Amendment. Americans are free to think whatever they'd like. However, while Pierce's entire book was devoted to the notion that the problem starts when the outlandish ideas are thought of as public policy. This is just one of many ideas also presented by Wolraich, that the line between falsehoods, conspiracies, and fringe groups is becoming blurred. A random Google search would reveal many conspiracy theories from both the left and the right, but more and more, the right-wingers are trying to present these notions as facts.

"First, the conspirators plan to deliberately devalue the dollar in order to force Americans to accept a new common currency, called the Amero. (Like the Euro, get it?) The conspirators include the Federal Reserve and numerous foreign entities. Ron Paul speaks vaguely of 'an unholy alliance of foreign consortiums and officials from several governments.' Others name the Rothschilds. Many also suspect King Juan Carlos of Spain for no obvious reason (Wolraich 179)."

Most liberals can just shake their heads at these ideas. But sadly, it does become graver, depending on the subject. It's one thing to feel persecuted when you're disagreed with, and another thing to shamelessly work agendas into serious issues and legislation.

"It is difficult to imagine a more perfect example of right-wing persecution politics than the opposition to the Matthew Shepard Act. A bill designed to discourage hate-fueled violence against homosexuals is represented as a malicious, discriminatory assault on Christians masterminded by the people it was designed to protect. Those who subscribe to this point of view categorically reject the possibility of discrimination against homosexuals in general and Matthew Shepard in particular. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), for example, insisted that Shepard's murder was a simple burglary gone awry. (No homophobia here, folks, just the bloody pulp of a dying gay man tied to a fence, move along) (Wolraich 74)."



Michael Wolraich is a blogger and contributor to other notable websites, including CNN.com. While Blowing Smoke isn't a collection of previously published material, it's refreshing that, in a sea of bad writing, the stigma of a blogger writing a book is slowly being lifted. This is a thought-provoking work, and not the usual reprinting of cute animal photos from the Internet. His writing isn't perfect; he has a tendency to repeat some of his ideas almost verbatim from page to page and between chapters. However, I found his writing to be very refreshing, in the sense that his book is a plea for level-headed thinking, not just a shake of the finger towards the right (although there is plenty of that). Towards the end of the book, he acknowledges the rational, moderate Republicans who do not subscribe to lies and conspiracy. Has Ann Coulter ever done that for liberals? The scary, sad fact is that conservative commentators, especially Glenn Beck, form a tie to conservative politicians and the conservative public. It's at the point that even in-house critiques become lambasted.

"Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) didn't even last twenty-four hours after belittling right-wing media stars. He too apologized and wrote 'Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are voices of the conservative movement's conscience. Every day, millions and millions of Americans--myself included--turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination (Wolraich 276).'"

In my review of Ill Fares the Land, I cited Tony Judt's opinion that conservative commentators and leaders claim that their views are the majority when they're parroted back by their constituents and audiences. If someone wanted to criticize my enthusiasm for Blowing Smoke, they could easily say that I'm just parroting views that I agree with; hell, I even admitted as much in the first paragraph. However, I wouldn't claim that there's a conspiracy theory to silence my views. Yes, there are fringe groups on the left that have outlandish theories. For example, the liberal majority doesn't think that the George W. Bush administration orchestrated 9/11, but there are handfuls of people who believe this. The fact is, lies are being spread, and voices like Wolraich are not being liberal zombies. Blowing Smoke reminded me of Roger Ebert's stunning essay entitled "Put Up Or Shut Up." One of his quotes that has stuck in my head should be a rallying cry against conservative conspiracies. A difference of opinion is necessary in any discourse, but some people and groups are working to make false claims viewed as unvarnished truth. To close, this is the phrase by Ebert that is a fitting conclusion to any piece like this:

"The time is here for responsible Americans to put up or shut up. I refer specifically to those who have credibility among the guileless and credulous citizens who have been infected with notions so carefully nurtured. We cannot afford to allow the next election to proceed under a cloud of falsehood and delusion."

Work Cited:
Wolraich, Michael. Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior Into a Raging Homosexual. Copyright 2010 by Michael Wolraich.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Literary China: Eastern Compromises

"While 'tradition' versus 'modernity' is commonly used to refer to changes that began to take place as China responded to the significant impact of the West, how they should actually be defined within the Chinese context is far from clear."--Yi-Tsi Mei Feuerwerker

Last month, a New York publishing house called Better Link Press released a series of stories and novellas by various authors, all published under the banner of "Stories By Contemporary Writers From Shanghai." These slim volumes, written by a variety of artists virtually unknown outside of The People's Republic, proved impossible for me to resist, even with very little knowledge of modern Chinese writers, either in name or in output. As I've mentioned before, international literature keeps growing stronger and more renowned, especially in the last decade. However, when one thinks of Asian writers, it's hard to name too many not based in Japan, a region that has produced numerous writers, led by Haruki Murakami, with strong readership bases in the United States. I selected one of the translations by Better Link Press almost at random, opting for Zhao Changtian's novella collection entitled Goodbye, Xu Hu! By the mercy of almost creepy timing, I neared the end of my reading when The New Yorker published "Servant Of the State" by Jianying Zha, a long profile on Chinese writer Wang Meng. The combination of these readings has piqued my interest in China from a literary perspective, but has also raised many questions. However, Jianying's essay highlights the fact that China's literary consciousness is beset by more questions than answers.



Goodbye, Xu Hu! is composed of two novellas, the title piece, as well as one entitled "No Explanation Is Necessary." The opening story recaps the meeting of Zhou Shuting, a young soldier in the People's Liberation Army, and Xu Hu, a bright, outgoing young woman. Their romance begins innocently, but ends prematurely, possibly due to the influence of her high-ranking father, and they meet again twenty years later. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, between youthful innocence under heavy government watch and older, wiser people in a modern China that's vastly different from the era of their youth: light descriptions of magnolias intertwine with a world of business, cell phones, and pagers. This premise is intriguing in hindsight, even if, from a Western standpoint, it's a version of an age old story: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl again. However, after a few pages, I nearly bailed out. Zhao's writing was, at least initially, so simplistic that I didn't know whether it was a case of bad writing or bad translating. Ideas are repeated and rephrased in obvious manners, leading to several passages that are tedious at best.

"I studied this woman. She was dressed elegantly and with care; her makeup was done with fine taste and was very becoming. Everything about this woman bespoke social status and wealth. As I watched her, she became more and more like a stranger to me, and farther from the Xu Hu in my memory. But I couldn't take my eyes off her. The sight of her rekindled a longing for Xu Hu. What had become of Xu Hu? I wondered (Zhao 15)."

With the exception of some VERY basic French, I only read and speak English; therefore, I was hesitant to blame bad translating. Deep in my literary subconscious, I didn't want to have to write negative views of the translator (one Yawtsong Lee), especially given the fact that I don't read Chinese, and even if I did, I didn't have an original version of the text at my disposal. Call it bleeding-heart guilt if you must. However, strictly as an English text, "Goodbye Xu Hu!" is not very engaging. There are hints to literary devotion, but for the most part, even with scenes describing the narrator's time in the People's Liberation Army, politics or government are almost nowhere to be found. Of course, this isn't necessary. "American literature" doesn't denote American government, but rather the American experience, as vague as that phrase can be. However, the story of "Goodbye, Xu Hu!", despite ending on a pleasantly, intentionally open-ended note, doesn't do anything. Is this really the best of Shanghai's literary population? Perhaps, or perhaps not. While it makes no explicit mention of Shanghai, Jianying's "Servant Of the State" explains that a lot of Chinese commentators are not thrilled with the majority of Chinese fiction. Wang Meng, a prolific, respected/hated Chinese writer, is quoted as saying that Chinese literature is "at its best of times." However:

"[Wang's] remarks were greeted with derision on the Chinese Internet. One blogger compared contemporary Chinese literature to Chinese manufactured goods: low price, high quantity, little added value, no brand (Jianying 60)."

This is a harsh assessment, but I have to apply it to "Goodbye, Xu Hu!" However, the novella "No Explanation Is Necessary" is much more satisfying, telling the story of a Chinese hospital janitor, his (again) lost love, but with more compelling mysteries beneath the surface. A Chinese journalist is intrigued by the affable, well-read janitor at the hospital where her father is being treated. She discovers that the janitor's story is one of wealth, loss, family issues, and relationships. His re-telling provides some excellent bursts of real emotion, ones that were glaringly missing in "Goodbye, Xu Hu!" These emotions also have international appeal, given our current economic woes.

"After putting down the phone, I sat alone for two hours in the room until Xiao Qiong came back. In those two hours my head seemed at once crowded with thoughts and yet empty. In fact no amount of thinking was helpful under the circumstances; I had been wiped out. In the wake of my divorce proceedings, I had left the house to my ex-wife and had moved into my office. When I had a woman with me for some length of time, as with Xiao Qiong this time, I would stay in a company house. After bankruptcy and liquidation, everything, including real estate and the car, would have to go to the bank. I wouldn't even have a place to stay (Zhao 166)."



Perhaps my previous notion that Chinese literature shouldn't evoke Chinese government is impossible. Since the Chinese ruling party is so heavily influential, and so quick to strike down dissenters (Jianying also profiles Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Nobel Prize winner and a frequent critic of China's government), it might be difficult to separate Chinese creativity from the shadow of intense government control. In Jianying's profile, Wang is criticized for his compromises and his lifelong siding with China's right and left. One of the comments on Liu struck me as relevant to Zhao's stories, especially given how I was torn between the notion of bad translating and bad writing.

"[Liu] claimed that there was 'nothing good' to say about mainland Chinese authors, not 'because they were not allowed to write but because they cannot write.' For an iconoclast like Liu, cultural critique and political reform were part of the same struggle (Zianying 64)."

I found my opening quotation from the opening pages of Ideology, Power, Text: Self-Representation and the Peasant "Other" in Modern Chinese Literature. I've done very basic research, but Feuerwerker makes the compelling case (at least in application to my readings of Zhao) that contemporary Chinese literature is a balance between respecting the views/origins of the Chinese peasant and the modern, affluent business-minded persona. The janitor in "No Explanation Is Necessary" is a literal interpretation of this hypothesis. He's open and unashamed of his forays between wealth and poverty; whether or not Zhao meant this as an interpretation of the peasant "other" can only be explained by the author. For now, I only have the text and some criticism to go by. Exhaustive web searches for Better Link Press and Zhao Changtian have proved to be fruitless; Better Link Press has no official website, but only a Hotmail e-mail address listed on the copyright page. Jianying's essay is enormously helpful, but in reality, it only scratches the surface. Is Zhao an iconoclast like Liu? Is he an obedient "court poet," a term used by Wang's critics? Perhaps the publication of Goodbye, Xu Hu! will be Zhao's only English translation. Perhaps more research into contemporary Chinese literature will yield more answers. For now, Jianying's essay provides a succinct look into a dynamic (for better or for worse) literary niche. Zhao's writings left a lot to be desired, but was it truly his fault? Or was it due to poor translation and/or government oversight? The phrase "the mysterious East" has been used for decades, often in slyly racist terms. In this case, there's a lot of mystery, and in all reality, time will tell if Chinese writers are victims of fear or a general lack of layers.

Works Cited:

Jianying Zha. "Servant Of the State." The New Yorker. November 8th, 2010.

Zhao Changtian. Goodbye, Xu Hu! Copyright 2010 by Shanghai Press and Publishing Development Company.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fear and Loathing, Past and Present



For the past month, I've been reading Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 in little bursts, and I coincidentally finished it a couple of days before the 2010 midterm elections. Even before completing it, the phrase "dynamic equilibrium" kept popping up in my head. While I'm sure it has been used in social contexts before, my introduction to the idea came in one of my high school physics classes. I very nearly failed the class, but the definition of dynamic equilibrium amazed me at the time in philosophical ways, rather than scientific. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thompson's book is full of passages that, while discussing names from the past, could very easily apply to today's political landscape. I've read many articles that attempt to pinpoint the moment in which American politics became such a divide between ideologies, dominated by media (both left and right-wing), and left discussions behind in favor of smear campaigns and, for all intents and purposes, name-calling. In harsh reality, it's been that way for a long time.

"No, this would never do. Not for George McGovern--at least not in May of '72, and probably never. He has spent the past week traveling around Nebraska and pausing at every opportunity to explain that he is flatly opposed to the legalization of marijuana. He is also opposed to putting people in prison for mere possession, which he thinks should be re-classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
And even this went down hard in Nebraska. He came into this state with a comfortable lead, and just barely escaped with a six percentage-point (41 percent to 35) win over Hubert Humphrey--who did everything possible, short of making the accusations on his own, to identify McGovern as a Trojan Horse full of dope dealers and abortionists (Thompson 202-203)."

Smear campaigns? Check. Politicians carefully dancing around issues lest they offend every side of said issue? Check. This description of McGovern (the eventual Democratic Presidential candidate in 1972) mirrors that of President Obama. Before taking office, Obama presented many platforms on gay rights and marriage equality; after taking office, I remember watching one of his speeches, and when he was called upon his views on gay marriage, he was almost at a loss for words, coming up with vague comments on equality and domestic partner benefits. I fully believe that President Obama supports gay and lesbian citizens. McGovern apparently didn't demonize marijuana, but in both cases, it's an example of having to be, well, political. With the opposition ready to jump on your every statement, speaking in cliches and non-opinions becomes the norm.

Thompson supported McGovern, and while the 1972 election was criticized for the way journalists and writers placed themselves among the candidates, Thompson never put McGovern on a pedestal. Like any candidate, he had his strengths and weaknesses. However, one gets the feeling that, much like John Kerry in 2004, the Democratic nominee was viewed not as the best candidate, but rather the anti-thesis to to Republican incumbent. The loss aside, Kerry didn't exactly sweep voters off their feet; rather, it was a case of "well, we need somebody besides George W. Bush." Despite the GOP wins this week, perhaps the outlook for Obama will be better in 2012. Will the following statement hold true for him? Every recent President has had his share of scandal or crisis. The problem with the critiques of President Obama is that the criticisms have veered into conspiracy and false accusations. If the economy brightens, perhaps this opinion from Thompson will hold true for a Democratic President.

"Any incumbent President is unbeatable, except in a time of mushrooming national crisis or a scandal so heinous--and with such obvious roots in the White House--as to pose a clear and present danger to the financial security and/or physical safety of millions of voters in every corner of the country (Thompson 466)."



Even before Nixon's re-election, the somber realization was that right-wing ideologies were taking hold in drastic numbers. Some of the passages in Fear and Loathing are extremely prophetic, even in a time before Tea Parties and anti-Obama backlash. Some of the similarities are tame:

"The pervasive sense of gloom among the press/media crowd in Miami was only slightly less obvious than the gung-ho, breast-beating arrogance of the Nixon delegates themselves. That was the real story of the convention: the strident, loutish confidence of the whole GOP machinery, from top to bottom (Thompson 352)."

And some of the similarities are scary, whether looking back or looking ahead:

"Until then, it had not been considered entirely fashionable to go around calling ex-Attorney General John Mitchell a 'prophet' because of his smiling prediction, in the summer of 1970, that 'This country is going so far to the right that you won't recognize it (Thompson 467).'"

These past and present connections are the bulk of what I wanted to present in this post. These may be basic or, if one wanted to be particularly harsh, mere generalizations of party politics. When I looked back at my previous essay on Hunter S. Thompson, I realized that today, just as much as two years ago, he's a difficult writer to truly analyze. He's long been one of my favorites, and as I mentioned before, he's the sort of writer whose image can cloud his actual output. He was opinionated and rarely objective, but he would have been the first one to admit this. But lost (again) in his public image was the fact that he was a brilliant journalist, and his intelligence on his various subjects was unmatched. He described himself as a political junkie, and made the important note that, no matter how one is affiliated with politics or an election, whether as a candidate or a journalist, it brings out the worst in people, sometimes to the breaking point. And really, since all of us are affected by politics, it's one of the few realms in which its impossible to remain emotionally detached. That said, given Thompson's rancor, I would have loved to read his thoughts on Sarah Palin or Rand Paul. I'm sure his opinions on them would have made his views on Richard Nixon seem like a pat on the back.

Work Cited:
Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. Copyright 1973 by Hunter S. Thompson.