Sunday, August 24, 2008

Five best: books about political conventions

CBS's Jeff Greenfield named a five best list of books about political conventions for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
Miami and the Siege of Chicago
by Norman Mailer
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968

Norman Mailer's over-the-top convention narratives -- Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is "a fat and aged version of a tough Truman Capote on ugly pills" -- capture a tumultuous time. It's a time that has been covered to death -- can we please amend the First Amendment to outlaw any more video featuring Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth"? -- but in Mailer's hands the past really does come alive. He is especially worth reading for his account of the Miami convention that nominated Richard Nixon. Though overshadowed by the pandemonium in Chicago, the Miami convention -- demonstrating what war, race and generational conflict had done to America's traditional optimism -- prefigured the party's growing appeal to what Nixon later called "the silent majority." In his writing, Mailer shows a respect for Nixon, even an affection. As for the Democratic choices, Mailer says of Eugene McCarthy's supporters: "Like all crusaders, their stinginess could be found in a ferocious lack of tolerance or liaison to their left or right -- the search for Grail seems invariably to proceed in a straight line."
Read about another title on Greenfield's list.

--Marshal Zeringue