Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"Deconstructing Barry" involves comparing him to Henry James

In a recent New Republic offering "A literary critic reads Obama." Here is the Henry James part:
It is hard for any writer, no matter how selective his memory or guarded his words, to conceal himself in his writing. I suspect (I've never met him) that the weaknesses and strengths of Obama's writing reflect those of his character-- a virtuosity that tempts him to be pleased with himself and impatient with others, but also an awareness of human complexity that made me think of a writer to whom he does not allude, Henry James, whose criterion for the artist as someone "on whom nothing is lost" he meets.
Here is the final paragraph:
To some, it all seems calculated and hubristic, and they will no doubt continue to detect in his style a self-involved inwardness. But, to me, it feels like heartfelt homage from someone with a keen sense of the complexities and commonalities of human experience. On the hopeful premise that style really does tell us something about the man, this man--to my ear, at least--is the real deal.
Not much "Deconstruction" there, and I know what the word means. We are told that the author, Andrew Delbanco, "teaches at Columbia, where he is Levi Professor in the Humanities and director of American Studies." I wonder what his politics are.

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