They are all there In Sean Wilentz’s Bringing It All Back Home
The title caught my eye, as it would have anyone who grew up when and where I did. Any of us would have recognized the title of that album. I still have it – in vinyl – the original. Even now I find it a bit exciting that I live only blocks from where Allen Ginsberg grew up and where he and he crew of “beats” would come home to roost in his parents’ parlor. My friends and I would take the bus to NYC and haunt The Eighth Street Bookstore, The Cafe Wha, Cafe Au-Go-Go. But I am getting ahead of myself. It was this book review by Christopher Shea in The Chronicle of Higher Education that grabbed me.
With a new book on Bob Dylan, the historian again defies expectations
Clintonistas will remember Wilentz for his loyal defense of President Clinton during impeachment proceedings as well as for his support of our Head Homegirl Hillary during the 2008 Primary Season. Yep, Sean is one of the Homeboys. That being the case, and having found Shea’s review entertaining and informative, I thought I would give both Shea’s review and Homeboy Sean’s new book a shout-out here. I am posting a few of the snips I found salient or just plain entertaining here.
This first one comes under the heading of “stuff we should not forget.”
Respected and yet also contentious, as anyone who followed the last presidential election closely will recall. Wilentz, a supporter of Hillary Clinton during her 2008 campaign, enraged a number of supporters of Barack Obama with his harsh attacks on the candidate, in both The New Republic, Wilentz’s longtime outlet, and Newsweek. In February 2008, after some Obama supporters accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of having injected race into the campaign by comparing Obama’s South Carolina victory to Jesse Jackson’s eventually inconsequential ones there, in 1984 and 1988, Wilentz turned the tables with a vengeance. By framing the Clintons as “race baiters,” he wrote, the Obama campaign had “purposely polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.”
As late as that August, when Obama had all but sewn up the nomination, Wilentz was still writing, in Newsweek, that “millions of … Democrats still find his appeals wispy and unconvincing,” and slamming liberal intellectuals for having “abdicated their responsibility to provide unblinking and rigorous analysis instead of paeans to Obama’s image.” Rigorous analysis of what? Among other things, “Obama’s rationalizations of his relationship with his pastor.”
This one I am including for the sheer hilarity of the interdepartmental territoriality of it. I LOLed.
“One would have to be blind not to see all the connections that bind this mood and the new Lincoln boom to the rise of Barack Obama.” He even jabbed at interlopers into history from English departments—”To say that Lincoln ‘became what his language made him’ is an English department conceit”—and decried “the balefully influential works of Howard Zinn,” guilty of leftist oversimplification.
*wipes away tears of laughter* “…an English Department conceit.” Will English professors ever get any respect?
Lastly, there is this very serious issue which served as a basis for Hillary supporters to be shouted down (loudly and regularly).
He casts his writings about Obama as a question of principle. “I very much knew that I was in the minority, but because I have the ability to get this stuff published and printed, I thought it was all the more important to get it out there, even if only as a historical record.” Two issues stood out for him: “the ways in which intellectuals were just enraptured by a political figure,” one they knew little about, and “the way race drives people crazy,” shutting down critical thought.
Corollary to this, I only recently saw a comment by a Hillary supporter, I think on Facebook, who remembers and resents that we were called “low information voters.” Hillary’s Army, more than any group of people I have ever encountered, knew information, did the research, got the facts (many from Hillary herself – you cannot listen to her without learning – if you don’t want to know stuff, don’t listen to Hillary). Note: We are still together, and we know even more stuff now!
Of course the book itself is not about Hillary or Bill, it is about Bob Dylan, and yes, I was AT that concert at Philharmonic Hall in 1964, so was my sister and a bunch of our friends. It was far out!
I encourage you to read the whole review. It might even make you want to read the book.
READ THE REVIEW HERE>>>>
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