The Account (A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #29)

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And during those drifting years, when the peaks were low and the valleys were deep, my futility found a particular nadir during my stint on Capitol Hill, where I briefly worked for a United States Senator. I believed in government in those days, and in politicians, and in myself and other young people, and—well, you’ve heard this story before. Young idealist goes to Washington, loses ideals. Ho hum.

This is not that story.

Not exactly, anyway. I could say that this story raises some deep issues about personal identity, origins, and longing for the unattainable, the unrecoverable. I could say it’s about the permanent absence we all hold within us, from the moment we leave the womb to the walk across the high school gym floor to receive our diploma…

I could say that, but we don’t need to be that pompous about it. This is a story about fitting in and not fitting in. That’s it.

(Eh, who am I kidding? I wish it was only that. The truth is that’s it’s a story about more than that. The truth is something much worse.) Continue reading

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International Feedback on The Race!

Yesterday I posted a quick little request that summarized my thoughts on the U.S. elections. And of course, I wrote a book about a politician, based on some personal experience I had ghostwriting the autobiography of one of our nation’s gems. The politician in my book, a former governor recovering from a sex scandal, exemplifies everything bizarre about our system.

What is it about democracy that produces such creatures? Is there something about the process itself that turns people into these aliens? Is it an American phenomenon or is it true of democracies everywhere?

Well, I’m happy to report that at least some of the ideas in The Race translate rather well. Here’s a report from a reader in India.

Some highlights:

I admire the governor’s character-someone who is more than determined to fight and make a comeback no matter what people think of him. Even after being humiliated by his Italian mistress, his sons and his wife he still goes strong with this character, smile and determination to fight against a stronger opponent.

Yes! There is something admirable about the governor. Something sympathetic. A pathetic creature. But dogged. He exists.

The story has its own pace and takes you by surprise on every shameless and unplanned statement the governor has to prove himself.

Thank you! I know this will sound a little self-serving, but it took me by surprise as well. I vividly remember the day when I thought, “Wait, we’re ending every chapter with someone telling him how much they hate him…well, all right then! Let’s get it on!

The story showcases a lot of American humour which clearly shows how people from different parts of the country think and behave differently in a particular situation.

Glad you liked it! It’s Wisconsin, for sure. But it’s also Anywhere, America.

All in all a hilarious piece of work…

Wow!

…with two different characters who come together to shape up the life of the governor in words and in turn realise how sensitive and greedy can human nature be at times.

Readers, could I ask for a better review? It’s so generous!

A great political comedy wrapped with insight on changing human nature.

Thank you!

You can check out The Race at Amazon.com and elsewhere. Paperbacks still less than 5 bucks, e-book versions still less than three. And of course, free books available to all reviewers. Aha, you say: I don’t review books for some fancy news organization or million-hit blog. Discrimination in action! No, dear reader, you’ve misunderstood. Any review counts – even on your own blog, even at Goodreads, even a plain customer review at Amazon. It all works for me!

My thanks to Janak Mistry for the wonderful book review (which I lost in the shuffle for a while – sorry for the delay, Janak!). And check out Janak’s writings about Tibet, we all need more Tibet in our lives.

Onward and upward!

Goodreads Giveaway: Politicians Are Human Beings. Maybe.

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Hello everyone! Some of you may recall the last time I did a Goodreads Giveaway, where I shipped off five free copies of The Promotion. I think it’s fairly common to recap these things, with a mathematical analysis of how many people requested the book, how many reviews it led to, what the impact was on sales, and finally some conclusions about lessons learned. Far be it from me to prevent information from reaching you, my loyal readers! So with apologies for the delay, here’s the list of conclusions I reached from the first Goodreads Giveaway:

Continue reading

Writers Laughing: George Orwell

Okay, the degree of difficulty is off the charts for this one. This is a man who agonized over politics and the English language. Who loved England and democracy but spent his life fighting against oppression and tyranny and the dangers of lazy thinking.

Laughing? George Orwell was shot in the throat while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Come on, Jacke. You really think you can find a picture of him laughing?

Well, here we go:

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Laughing! Right? Okay, maybe it’s no Ray Bradbury…his life was harder, and…

Wait…you don’t believe me? You think that’s just a smile? What are you accusing me of, reader? You think I’m trying to sneak one past you?

Reader, we have a good thing going! Don’t you trust me?

Fine, fine. I’ll give you my evidence. That picture above is taken from THIS picture: Continue reading

“Self-Deception Is Human”: Book Review of The Race (at Radical Science Fiction)

“This was a great little piece of political fiction…Wilson shows his writing chops – immersing us in a political world that doesn’t feel jargony, over-the-top, or formulaic.” – Nic Eaton, Radical Science Fiction

I was both pleased and intrigued when Nic over at Radical Science Fiction graciously offered to review my book The Race. Because although The Race is not science fiction, I’d like to think it shares a common set of themes with works in that genre.

Setting aside the horse race of an election, or the debates about this or that issue, what happens to the people involved? What’s universal about politics and politicians? What does a political campaign do to the people around it? What do a campaign and the politicians we elect (or not) say about our society? Or democracy? Or us?

Questions like these are why shows like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica are so compelling. It’s not the space aliens or special effects (cool as they may be). It’s the investigation into the human condition.

This isn’t a new idea of course. I only point it out to show why it was unsurprising that Nic, a fan of that genre, zoomed straight to the heart of what I was trying to get at.

Here’s the title of the review: Continue reading

Who’s Cheating America? The Smoke-Filled Room

Cheaters – they’re everywhere! Politicians promise us up and down they’re going to put an end to cheating. Work Hard and Play By the Rules, Americans! Isn’t that the motto? Do that and you’ll be fine.

Except… when the politicians are themselves the cheaters. And the story of their cheating has a twist you could not make up. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the McDonnells:

“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment, for which I take full responsibility,” [former Virginia Governor Robert] McDonnell said in a statement in the Washington Post.

Wait, “legal gifts and loans”? What’s wrong with that?

“However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never promised — and Mr. Williams and his company never received — any government benefit of any kind from me or my administration,” McDonnell said.

Personal generosity and friendship? Who was cheated here? Maybe this former governor was himself the cheatee! He supplied some friendship to his fellow man… a little warmth, a little bonhomie… and in return he gets hit with the wrong end of the scandal stick. What did he take in return?

According to the indictment, the McDonnells met Williams — identified in the document as JW — in 2009, when McDonnell allegedly began using Williams’ private jet during his gubernatorial campaign.

A private jet? Well, maybe he was just headed out to see constituents…

At the time, Robert owned a 50 percent stake in MoBo Real Estate Partners, owners of vacation rental homes in Virginia Beach, Va., which weren’t earning enough money to keep up with the mortgages, the indictment said.

Uh-oh. Sounds like someone had some incentive to cheat. But still! Traveling to visit constituents is justifiable!

After hearing about the McDonnells’ financial woes, Williams allegedly offered to buy Maureen an Oscar de la Renta dress for Robert’s inauguration, and gave the couple two loans — $50,000 to cover the Virginia Beach debts and another $15,000 for their daughter’s upcoming wedding, the indictment said.

Oh boy. A dress? A wedding? Personal loans? This is not sounding good.

Except… wait! This is all for family! That justifies it, right?

Virginia’s first couple and their family purportedly took vacations and luxury golf outings on Williams’ dime. … In 2012, Williams allegedly loaned the McDonnells another $50,000 to cover expenses at MoBo Properties, and in May that same year he loaned McDonnell another $20,000. Maureen also convinced Williams to purchase Robert a Rolex watch with the words ”71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back, which she gave him for Christmas in 2011, the indictment said.

Oh, geez. A watch? Luxury golf? Okay. But as far as quid pro quo goes, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve heard. No cash in the freezer. No strippers in Vegas. The quid isn’t so bad, really. Kind of cute. Almost harmless! Rolex makes nice watches! Golf is a healthy activity! Daughters have beautiful weddings?

What is the quo? [Grimaces and closes eyes.]

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted Tuesday for illegally accepting more than $135,000 in donations, luxury gifts and vacation getaways in exchange for touting a donor’s tobacco-based health supplement.

A tobacco-based health supplement? What is this, The Onion?

At the same time, [Williams’s company] was allegedly seeking ways to legitimize two of its tobacco-based products — CigRx, a smoking cessation supplement, and Anatabloc, which claimed to reduce inflammation in the body.

Yes, that’s right. Health supplements. Made out of tobacco. Let’s get the research rolling on that! And then we’ll drink crude-oil milkshakes and wear workout gear made from bacon fat and smog.

The quid is run-of-the-mill. The quo gives the governor a spot in our Cheater Hall of Fame.

Previous in our Who’s Cheating America? series:

Thoughts on France’s Menage a Trois

PHOTOGRAPHS: FROM LEFT, BY MARC AUSSET- LACROIX/WIREIMAGE, ANTOINE ANTONIOL/GETTY IMAGES, FRANÇOIS DURAND/GETTY IMAGES. (courtesy vanityfair.com

I’ve done some thinking about love triangles and politics. In fact, I’ve set a book in that world.

The Race takes place in Wisconsin. One of its recurring themes is the loneliness and solitude of strivers trapped in out-of-the-way places. Although they live – and thrive – in a flyover state, both the Governor and his wife have national aspirations. The Governor has a transatlantic affair. His wife goes to the national media to get her side of the story out. The center does not hold.

It’s a story that appeals to me, for the sex and intrigue but also the struggle to overcome  provincial origins. I was told once that living in the Midwest means learning to live within limits. These people did not learn.

What happened in France – recounted by Evgenia Peretz in a fascinating Vanity Fair article from December 2012 – is different. These were sophisticated people, living in a sophisticated city, living sophisticated lives.

And yet… things are recognizably the same.

Politics, like parenting and death, is a great leveler of differences. You could travel across time, continents, political systems and find the same basic elements: power, ambition, and human frailty. It seems that no matter what the particular landscape is, the political roads are all alike.

And they all lead to disaster.