Friday, May 04, 2007

Who won last night's Republican presidential debate?

Who's asking: Talking heads everywhere

Truly, I don't know and I don't care. I watched most of last night's debates, flipping back and forth between that and the Thursday night shows on NBC -- I clicked away every time a candidate mentioned Ronald Reagan, and clicked back at commercials.

Political reporters seem to think Mitt Romney won last night's debate, but I could hardly stand to watch him; I get no sense of him as anything but a carefully-constructed persona. The only person who seemed to be speaking honestly and rationally, without an eye to the camera, was Ron Paul, whom no one's taking seriously as a candidate.

Come the summertime, I plan to spend a fair amount of time at rallies in New Hampshire, just for the curiosity value. This stuff is too important to let television tell us what to think.

What I Read This Week

Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone. Finally read this book, after meeting the man last weekend; I should have read it last year, when it came out. In an Ozark winter, 16-year-old Ree Dolly goes looking for her father, because if he's jumped bail, they'll lose their house. This spare, concentrated novel distills all the bleakness of poverty and all the resilience of youth -- its violence is not gratuitous and its ending is not unrealistically happy, but I finished it feeling I'd known Ree Dolly all my life.

Stef Penney, The Tenderness of Wolves. I wish I hadn't read so much about this book, which won the 2006 UK Costa (formerly Whitbread) Award for Book of the Year. Simon & Schuster seems to be marketing its US release (in July) as a thriller, but that may be inviting disappointment. The Tenderness of Wolves is a wildly ambitious, sprawling epic set in northern Canada in 1867. A teenaged boy disappears after the murder of a French-Canadian trapper; his mother, who narrates much of the book, follows him into the wilderness. Along the way, other men are looking for two long-missing English girls, a mysterious native carving, a priceless cache of furs, and the trapper's killer. It's Dickensian in scope, and the writing is beautiful -- but parts of it do drag, and some of the subplots can't help but be underdeveloped. It's an impressive first novel, but not as good as I'd hoped and expected.

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