Young Obama May Have Been Even More Pretentious Than Current Obama
In his forthcoming biography of Barack Obama, author David Maraniss turns to letters and diaries kept by former confidants and old flames of the young Obama to document the President's history. The biography, which has uncovered some inconsistencies in Obama's own memoirs, is already making the President squirm.
The present edition of Vanity Fair is running a short adaptation of Maraniss's work, which zeroes in on Obama's relationships with two ex-girlfriends, both white, from his early twenties. In a letter to girlfriend Alex McNear, with whom he had become acquainted at Occidental College, the young Obama wrote about literature and of his quest to find himself. Excerpts:
I haven’t read “The Waste Land” for a year, and I never did bother to check all the footnotes. But I will hazard these statements—Eliot contains the same ecstatic vision which runs from Münzer to Yeats. However, he retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter—life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?
Moments trip gently along over here. Snow caps the bushes in unexpected ways, birds shoot and spin like balls of sound. My feet hum over the dry walks. A storm smoothes the sky, impounding the city lights, returning to us a dull yellow glow. I run every other day at the small indoor track [at Columbia] which slants slightly upward like a plate; I stretch long and slow, twist and shake, the fatigue, the inertia finding home in different parts of the body. I check the time and growl—aargh!—and tumble onto the wheel. And bodies crowd and give off heat, some people are in front and you can hear the patter or plod of the steps behind. You look down to watch your feet, neat unified steps, and you throw back your arms and run after people, and run from them and with them, and sometimes someone will shadow your pace, step for step, and you can hear the person puffing, a different puff than yours, and on a good day they’ll come up alongside and thank you for a good run, for keeping a good pace, and you nod and keep going on your way, but you’re pretty pleased, and your stride gets lighter, the slumber slipping off behind you, into the wake of the past.
Now, I've read neither Dreams from My Father nor The Audacity of Hope, but Ann Althouse thinks that these excerpts from his old letters should put to rest the notion that Bill Ayers ghost wrote the memoirs. "I am now willing to believe Obama wrote his own memoir," she writes. "This is that jejune 'creative writing' style that I was talking about back in 2009."
Jejune indeed. And entirely pretentious.
(h/t Mollie Hemingway)