Who is John McCain, Really?

By Carlos Portocarrero

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Do I really know the answer to this question? Not a chance, but I know someone who has a much better idea. This blog is not about politics and I’m not about to turn it in that direction, but in the spirit of the Republican National Convention and John McCain’s acceptance last night, I wanted to chime in with something I think everyone should read.

I didn’t know anything about McCain back in 2000 when he ran against George W. Bush. I read one article about him and that was all I needed. Luckily for me, it was written by David Foster Wallace, my favorite writer of all time. It was an article he wrote for Rolling Stone and you can read it all here.

He talks about McCain the person, the POW and the candidate. As usual with DFW, the article was way longer than anything Rolling Stone could include in the magazine, so they cut it down substantially. You can read that edited version in the link I provided. But before you do, you should know that the piece was so good that it showed up in it’s entirety in one of his books.

Being a huge DFW fan, I have that book. It’s a collection of essays he wrote called Consider the Lobster, which in itself is a great read (especially the title piece). But if you buy that book, you can read the whole thing, which is an even better and entertaining read.

I like to give people options, so if that’s not enough for you, the article was released on its own too, under the name Up, Simba! You can get the Kindle version here. To top it all off, it was so well received that with McCain running for president this year, it was re released as a standalone book called McCain’s Promise.

I don’t care which version you read or where you stand in the political arena — you have to read one of these versions. For a few reasons:

  • It’s entertaining (always my first criteria)
  • It’s funny as hell (which always helps)
  • It’s very timely (duh)
  • It takes an insider’s look at part of the political process, but is written by someone who is not a political commentator (which means you won’t get the same old, tired stuff you see everywhere else). This makes it incredibly insightful, new and fresh.
  • DFW does not take any sides

Listen, I’m as jaded as the next guy about politics. Pick a party: I’m jaded about it. But what Wallace has done is written something that is eight years old and is still incredibly valuable and entertaining.

I should note that in this interview Wallace has said that his article is out of date in that he believes McCain is a different candidate than we was back in 2000. Make sure to check that out too as a kind of preface after reading the essay.

For those that have read this essay before, please share your favorite part here!

P.S. If you really like David Foster Wallace’s writing (a lot of people don’t) and you like non-fiction, you can’t do much better than Consider the Lobster or A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never do Again, which was the book that turned me into a writer.

3 Responses to “Who is John McCain, Really?”

  • The BoBo Carnival of Politics Sep 7, 2008 | The BoBo Files Says:

    […] Coin presents Who is John McCain, Really? posted at The Writer’s Coin, saying, “A fantastic look at John McCain that […]

  • The Inaugural BoBo Carnival of Politics - Sep 7, 2008 | Driving the Left Loony -The Bobo Files Says:

    […] Coin presents Who is John McCain, Really? posted at The Writer’s Coin, saying, “A fantastic look at John McCain that […]

  • meta4man Says:

    I caught this article the first time you posted it and then saw word of DFW’s suicide, barely remembering how I knew the name, but remembering it with respect. Now, I have read the article, and in 2000, would have wholeheartedly supported McCain if he’d been able to mount a serious campaign, but he was bullied out by the party elite.

    Now, I’m afraid it has been a hard 8 years on John McCain, almost as hard as those as a POW. He’s lost something, when he talks, I can tell he means well, but have no confidence in his capabilities to do so. Couple that with the fact that I think 8 years of Republicans in a row is enough, and he’s lost me.

    Still, DFW took me inside with that article, and I am truly glad that I got to read it. I may tackle one of the more ambitious novels next.


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