This is a Really Hard Book to Write

While I’m out here in the wilds of rural France. I hope to complete another two chapters of my novel, working title – There is Always a Price. The book takes the form of a memoir and it follows the lives of three friends, two white guys and an African-American woman from their college days in the late 60s/early 70s up to the middle of the Obama administration. All three are involved in Democratic politics in one form or another, and all of them come to Washington, DC. I’ve written around 400 pages and I’m only in the middle of the Carter Administration. Still to come is Reagan, two Bushs, Clinton and a bit of Obama. I can’t just skip one of them. Some readers would notice. This is taking a lot longer than I expected, and I assume that after I’m done with this first draft I will have to do a lot of trimming.

The book originates with an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for years: The 60s were enormous fun but also a bad influence on American politics. Beginning with the McGovern campaign, and culminating in the Carter and Clinton administrations, the Democratic Party has fallen under the sway of politicians and their political consultant minions who are anti-union and who identify with the professional classes and the new rich whose fortunes have been made in fields like law, information technology and finance. These college educated neo-liberal Democrats are heirs of the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s, which means they are open-minded about things that made their parents nervous like drug use, sex, marriage and divorce. Unfortunately, it also means that the majority of them don’t care in the least about inequality. Economic success is a matter of merit. Those who can pass tests, notably the bar exam, or master certain skills such as computer programming deserve their high salaries and social status. Obama summarized the attitude nicely when he called on the poor to learn computer programming in order to improve their lives.

All three of my main characters are corrupted in varying degrees by their involvement in politics. This is a political novel, but I want the characters to be more than just stick figures who exist only to make a political point. I also want to write a funny book. The 60s were funny and political consultants are ridiculous in addition to being generally evil, so it should be possible to write a funny book that still has some political punch. The humor is the hardest part of all.

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