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DFW on McCain

In 2000, David Foster Wallace wrote this piece for Rolling Stone, about his seven days traveling with the then-insurgent John McCain campaign. The story, published in full as part of DFW's 2005 Consider the Lobster, offers an incomprable look inside the insanity that is a modern political campaign -- packaged in true DFW style, which means it is funny and intricately detailed and spot-on, analysis-wise.

Eight years later, McCain is the subject of intense scrutiny once again. But this time, he's no insurgent -- he's the establishment candidate. In this context, Back Bay Books is publishing DFW's McCain essay in its third incarnation -- as a stand-alone book called McCain's Promise, with an intro by Slate.com writer Jacob Weisberg. Now, in addition to providing still-fascinating inside-scoop details, the piece stands to illuminate the ways in which McCain, his campaign, and his Straight Talk Express have morphed over the years.

In this Wall Street Journal interview, DFW talks about some of those changes: "McCain himself has obviously changed; his flipperoos and weaselings on Roe v. Wade, campaign finance, the toxicity of lobbyists, Iraq timetables, etc. are just some of what make him a less interesting, more depressing political figure now—for me, at least. It's all understandable, of course—he's the GOP nominee now, not an insurgent maverick. Understandable, but depressing. As part of the essay talks about, there's an enormous difference between running an insurgent Hail-Mary-type longshot campaign and being a viable candidate (it was right around New Hampshire in 2000 that McCain began to change from the former to the latter), and there are some deep, really rather troubling questions about whether serious honor and candor and principle remain possible for someone who wants to really maybe win. I wouldn't take back anything that got said in that essay, but I'd want a reader to keep the time and context very much in mind on every page."

(Thanks to Chris Gray for the WSJ heads up!)

-- Deirdre Fulton 

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