Sunday, February 9, 2014
Book Review: O, Democracy!
3 Stars - Recommended to those in the political-know, though knowledge of politics is actually not required!
Publisher: Fifth Star Press
Releases: April 2014
When Kathleen initially approached me about reviewing O, Democracy! I was hesitant and confessed my political ignorance, fearing the entirety of the novel would be lost on me. I mean, I don't vote, I don't follow candidates, I ignore every debate or presidential speech on TV, and I (gasp!) can't even tell you the difference between a republican and a democrat other than the former identifies with an elephant while the latter identifies with a donkey.
Maybe my political ignorance makes me a jackass, and thus a democrat by default?! Ok, forget I said that.
In my defense, if this can be called a defense, (as though I need a defense), I'm a Gen-Xer through and through, preferring to let others worry about the state of the world as I continue to make my way through it, perfectly content in blaming others when it all goes to hell. I look at those who prance around in front of the cameras, making impossible promises to the public, saying things they know we want to hear just to get elected - "pro-life", "affordable healthcare for all", "create more jobs" - when in reality, they can't make it happen anymore than I can. Puppets, one and all. Ok. Forget I said that too.
Actually, let's just forget politics all together. Because in O, Democracy! we are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at a job that, despite the fact that it's at the Illinois Senator's office, looks and sounds very much like any one of our jobs... training young and clueless interns, dealing with ridiculous interoffice politics, putting up with bitchy bosses, and submitting to the whims of a powerful pervert who think it's ok to abuse his position by sexually harassing you.
The book's events take place during the 2008 election year (even I know that this is a fictional spin on Obama's initial run for the presidency), and is being relayed to us through the eyes of our dead forefathers. They are watching over the career of Colleen, a mid-level lackey for the Illinois Senator who is NOT running for president. Her various and incredibly unglamorous responsibilities include staff photographer, part-time personal escort to the Senator, and one time garbage-cleaner-upper. When her dreams of being part of the actual campaign team are squashed, she mopes around the Chicago office with the interns and other-left-behind staffers souring with each passing debate. That is, until she unexpectedly becomes the possessor of a video starring the Senator's republican rival that could change the course of the campaign in an instant.
In this well written tale of a women caught up in a job that fails to live up to her expectations, Kathleen creatively captures our collective longing and desire to be a part of something bigger. She also succeeds at not naming names - both presidential and brand - by employing trivia and well known facts in their place, forcing her readers to work out what she is referring to. I've never known another author to attempt anything like it before. Most of the time, I picked up what she was putting down. For the few times I couldn't work it out on my own, google got me there.
While it may appear a little bit lengthy at the start, O, Democracy! is a worthy read and audiences of all sorts - politically savvy and otherwise - will find something to latch onto within its pages.