Friday, 25 February 2011

“O: A Presidential Novel” by Anonymous (Simon & Schuster)

[Due to the political nature of the novel, and presumed equal interest for readers of this site, I have cross-posted this review from Civilian-Reader.]


A satirical portrait of the people trying to win the presidency in 2012

Among them are: Cal Regan, a rising political star who takes over the president's 2012 re-election campaign after O’s veteran campaign chief is forced to resign because of an affair with a teenage prostitute; Maddy Cohan, a dazzling young journalist whose sharp reports for an upstart website are a frequent source of conversation among the political elite, and whose relationship with one of her sources could complicate her career; Walter LaFontaine, one of O’s earliest Chicago supporters, who despite being left behind when O went to Washington, yearns for a larger role in his hero’s re-election campaign; Tom “Terrific” Morrison, a one-term governor with a military background, who is emerging as the likely nominee and a formidable opponent. Privately derisive of O, Morrison seeks to run a classic change campaign similar to O’s historic march to victory in 2008; Allen Knowles, a wealthy Silicon Valley campaign donor who gives Cal Regan secret information which could be damaging to Morrison’s campaign.

Meanwhile, O is chafing under the demands of the presidency. His senior aides are running him too hard and, to his irritation, have advised him not to play golf on the weekends. To win re-election, he realizes he may have to adopt political methods he had once denounced.

President Obama is fast becoming the most written-about (modern-day) president. Following on in a new sub-genre, we get O: A Presidential Novel (henceforth, O:APN) – an anonymously-penned fictionalisation of Obama’s campaign for re-election in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. Filled with insider detail, and satirical jabs at Washington culture and many familiar faces from the Obama White House (all given different names, of course), O:APN is a novel of mixed strengths and weaknesses.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

“U.S.-China Relations”, by Robert G. Sutter (Rowman & Littlefield)

Sutter-USChinaRelationsPerilous Past, Pragmatic Present

This comprehensive and lucid assessment of the key historical and contemporary determinants of Sino-American relations explains the conflicted engagement between the two governments. Offering a welcome richness of discussion and analysis, distinguished analyst Robert G. Sutter explores the twists and turns of the relationship over the past two hundred years. The mixed historical record convincingly shows that strong differences and mutual suspicions persist, only partly overridden by a mutual pragmatism that shifts with circumstances. As the only book on the subject that combines a unified assessment of the historical evolution, contemporary status and likely prospects of U.S.-Chinese relations, this balanced and pragmatic study will be an essential resource for all concerned with the globe’s most crucial bilateral partnership. [Back Cover matter]

In this volume, long-time China scholar offers a mixed study of US-China relations. The book is broad, but sadly lacking in detail. For a scholar so well-versed in US-China relations, this was disappointing. The book is not, however, without its uses.