DOG DAYS….In the November issue of the Washington Monthly, Christopher Lehmann explained why he thinks American political fiction sucks:
From The Gilded Age on, Washington was to be the premier setting of a strikingly continuous American political fable of innocence at risk. This sturdy tale typically pitches a political naif’s fateful interest in the machinery of reform against the backdrop of irredeemably fallen, endlessly seductive relations of power in the nation’s capital.
….This stubborn moralizing impulse is what makes American political fiction, even today, such watery and unsatisfying literature: It deprives writers of the best material.
Hmmm. Here is Janet Maslin of the New York Times describing Ana Marie Cox’s Dog Days:
The BlackBerry in “Dog Days” is more than just a shamelessly promoted product. It is a symbol, too. It represents the glib, facile, cynical, artificial and calculating values amid which Melanie finds herself as she wags the dog in Washington as a 28-year-old minor political operative working on the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign.
….”Dog Days” really does resort to what [Cox] herself calls “the Hallmark Channel ending.” So it’s bye-bye BlackBerry and hello Iowa for Melanie at the story’s end. Any smart Web site would mock her final gesture: turning on her laptop and writing the opening lines of this book.
Help me out here. Lehmann and Cox are married, which means that Lehmann must have read Dog Days before he wrote his essay. Right? And the book’s own website, which describes Melanie as sacrificing “all of her long-held ideals,” combined with Maslin’s review, sure makes it sound as if Dog Days follows nearly the precise moralizing arc that Lehmann disparages as “watery and unsatisfying.” So does that mean he thinks his wife’s book is just another predictable piece of political pap? That would make for some interesting dinner table conversation, wouldn’t it?
UPDATE: That’s Christopher Lehmann, not Nicholas. I knew that.