Quarterly Essay 32 American Revolution
The Fall of Wall Street and the Rise of Barack Obama
Where were you when America elected Barack Obama? Kate Jennings was in New York, eyes wide open, completing her take on an amazing time: "the run-up to the election ... a time when every day felt like a year and we became slightly crazed from worry but also mesmerised, unable to switch off the cable news stations, obsessively tracking the DOW, VIX, LIBOR spreads, polls in red states. So much at stake."
American Revolution is a dazzling and perceptive look at the United States between hope and despair: an election-year kaleidoscope. Jennings describes how and why the US economy fell off a cliff and how an apparently endless run of primaries and an increasingly rancorous campaign culminated in a world-changing victory. She surveys the characters – Obama, Palin, McCain and the Clintons - and conveys the concepts – derivatives, bailouts and moral hazard. This is an essay that shows America in fascinating flux: it is witty and poetic, acute and evocative.
‘The television networks are justifiably in raptures about the historic election of an African-American as the president. All the same … to reduce Obama to a label, to 'African-American,' does him - and us - a disservice. He wasn't elected for the colour of his skin; he was elected because he offered the hope of a wise, steady and healing leadership to a country bullied and battered in the name of patriotism, plundered and pillaged in the name of free markets, neglected and abandoned in the name of small government.’ —Kate Jennings, American Revolution
‘Kate Jennings captures perfectly the intensity of the past months, the terrible anxiety we felt, the almost pathological conviction that the Republicans would do anything, say anything, pull out all the stops, and that the Democrats would just stand there like numbskulls while the election was stolen from them once again.’ —Christina Thompson, editor of Harvard Review
Kate Jennings is a poet, essayist, short-story writer and novelist. Both her novels, Snake and Moral Hazard, were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her work has been in contention for the Booker, IMPAC, and Los Angeles Times literary prizes. She has won the prestigious Christina Stead and Adelaide Festival prizes and been honored with the Australian Literary Society's gold medal. Born in rural New South Wales, she has lived in New York since 1979.
- Schwartz Publishing Pty. Ltd, November 2008
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