Mike Kueber's Blog

December 25, 2012

Sunday Book Review #93 – Barack Obama by David Maraniss

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:10 pm
Tags: ,

To all those conservatives who complain that Barack Obama has never been properly vetted, this 571-page tome by an acclaimed biographer will surely disappoint.  David Maraniss has previously written thorough biographies about Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi, but he decided that this book would not be a traditional biography – “It begins long before Obama was born and ends before he entered politics.”  Instead of providing his readers with encyclopedic information about Obama’s life, Maraniss attempts to describe the influences – nature and nurture – that formed the man who currently presides over America.

In the introduction, Maraniss refers to Faulkner’s saying that, “The past is never dead.  It’s not even the past.”  This saying reflects the two cornerstones to Obama’s life – (1) he is forever trying to come to terms with the brilliant, irresponsible father who abandoned his mother and him; and (2) he has a detached, observational nature that he inherited from his unconventional, anthropologist mother.

The most fascinating aspect of the book occurs when Maraniss points out inaccuracies in Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father.  Although Maraniss considers the book “unusually insightful,” he declares that it is clearly “not history and autobiography, and should not be read as a rigorously factual account”:

  • The themes of the book control character and chronology.  Time and again the narrative accentuates characters drawn from black acquaintances who played lesser roles in his real life but could be used to advance a line of thought, while leaving out or distorting the actions of friends who happen to be white.”

After skimming this book (there is no way that I could devote 571 pages of reading to a single subject), I have more depth of understanding about Obama’s parents and grandparents, but my impressions of them and the President are remarkably unchanged.  Progressives will find evidence in the book that Obama is brilliant, charismatic, post-partisan, idealistic, and cosmopolitan.  Conservatives will find him to be un-American, cold-hearted, cynical, and opportunistic.

My conclusion – he is what he appears to be.

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3 Comments »

  1. “he is what he appears to be.” damn, you sound like Confuscious or something…

    Comment by q — December 26, 2012 @ 7:40 pm | Reply

  2. ok Yoda.

    Comment by q — December 28, 2012 @ 10:51 pm | Reply


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