On the fictional valorization of Hillary Clinton, just in time ? American Writer comments

How opportune! As Senile Old Joe marinates in his cognitive decline , sequestered from public view. His campaign, such as it is, carefully managed ‘interviews’ with friendly media, and short videos. Curtis Sittenfeld’s ‘Counter Factual Biography’ of Hillary Clinton, to be published under the title ‘Rodham’ adds what to the American political conversation?  Here is her picture provided by The Sunday Times:


Here is a quote from Bryan Appleyard  about the ‘why’ of the book:

Sittenfeld writes women better than anybody else, and women read her in huge numbers with the joy of recognition. If anybody can turn Hillary into a fictional heroine, she can.

And she really is the heroine. This book is a counterfactual — a “what if?” way of studying the past. The big “what if” here is what if Hillary hadn’t married Bill? Her answer, thanks to the deft way she combines fact and fiction, is wholly convincing. This is clearly how she wanted Hillary to be. And, crucially, about how much she wanted her to become president.

The book, and the timing of its publication are suspicious, to say the least, so it is important that Sittenfeld establish her distance from Hillary Clinton:

She has not met Hillary, although was once “in the same space with her” at Stanford University. But she springs to utterly convincing life in these pages.

“I do feel it’s important for me to emphasise that I’ve never spoken to her. It’s not as if I have any inside scoop. Any research I did was publicly available. I never interviewed someone behind the scenes. But there is a lot of information that’s out there.”

Appleyard probes a bit :

If she did meet her, what would she want to ask? She emails her question: “If you hadn’t become a lawyer and politician, what do you think you’d have done instead?” My question would have been: do you think marrying Bill Clinton held you back? That’s the one that looms behind the book. However, I can tell Sittenfeld doesn’t like that. She’s a detail person, and if that is the looming question, it’s up to the reader to ask it, not her. 

Should the reader of this interview come to the conclusion that Sittenfeld has written counter factual fan fiction?

Did she like Hillary more than when she started this book more than three years ago? “Yes, more, more! You know, for a lot of the last three years I’ve put on a pant suit and blond wig, metaphorically. I would never write a book from the point of view of a character I was unable to sympathise with. I feel very emotional about her. There’s this reflexively negative way of talking about her. Yet she’s such a hero and role model to so many people, especially many women, which doesn’t get acknowledged as much as it should.”

She says she ended up loving her. But she had also fallen for Bill during her research. She had read his big, swaggering autobiography, My Life.

“I mean, this is the thing; while reading it, I felt like I fell in love with him. And it was very surprising to me. But I think a writer needs to be able to feel the emotions her characters feel.”

This is voice of the true believer, or to be pointed, an apologist/propagandist that has produced an ‘imagined’ Hillary Clinton, rendered more palatable by Sittenfeld’s adolescent ‘crush’.  

Even Appleyard provides a bit of gush about ‘Bill’ , and Sittenfeld confirms : 

I tell Sittenfeld about meeting the real Bill at a party. He charmed me in about three seconds, and there was some weird visual effect that made everybody else blur into insignificance.

“Exactly, I’ve heard he has this very particular kind of magnetism that most mortals do not have.”

Not interested in the remainder of the interview focused on Sittenfeld life and literary career. One final comment, neither Appleyard  nor Sittenfeld  have any relation to Graham Greene!

American Writer 






About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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