I've now finished up all of the school work I had to get done before leaving for the big NonfictioNow Conference in Iowa City. I've been looking forward to this conference for months now-- I'm on a panel with Natalia Rachel Singer and David Griffiths, talking about politics and the essay-- and, more importantly, the political essay. My paper's been done for a while now-- I thought it was good, then I hated it, then I kinda liked it again, and now I'm not sure if I hate it or myself.
I am a tortured, tortured essayist.
Anyway, as part of the disccusion component of the panel, I've been tasked to think of a list of political essayists I like. This should be easy, right? I mean I'm always writing about Orwell and Baldwin here on this blog-- I must really like them. But then again, everyone likes Orwell and Baldwin. It's kinda too easy. Plus, I feel like my choices should be people whose politics I don't always agree with. Montaigne wrote some interesting stuff praising reason above democracy-- that's pretty political. But again-- what kind of a dumbass goes to a nonfiction conference and says "I like Montaigne!" That's like going to a Star Wars convention and saying, "You know who I really like? Jedis." I mean, come on, Bradley! This is what you do for a living. Think, think!
Okay, so how about this-- I acknowledge the Montaigne, Orwell, and Baldwin stuff, but then also point out that-- even though as a long-haired tree-hugging liberal sex fiend freak I find their politics frequently troublesome-- I quite like the writing of Joan Didion and Christopher Hitchens. Didion may be kind of obvious too, but I could compare her essay "The Women's Movement" (where she complains that second wave feminism became preoccupied with a type of a type of self-centered naivete) to Seymour Krim's "To My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business," where he points out that Americans are, as a species, prone to a type of self-centered naivete. I like both pieces, but find myself in closer agreement with Krim's social observations even while preferring Didion's dry wit to Krim's somewhat irritating "irreverent hipster lingo."
Or something like that. Maybe?
I dunno-- what political essayists do you like? Maybe I should open the question up and talk about memoirists who write about political subjects-- Alix Kates Shulman, maybe. Or I could talk about bloggers who are exceptionally good writers who struggle with complicated issues and points-of-view. Amanda Marcotte. Teh Portly Dyke. Lower Manhattanite. People like that.
Or, I could fake a nosebleed and go running from the room just before it's my turn to talk. I did that at a particularly tedious dinner once, when I was an undergrad, and it seemed to have worked. Those people haven't tracked me down yet.
Bah. This post is whiney and uninteresting. I'm still pretty psyched for this conference. Just nervous. Here, to cheer us all up, is a clip of Richard Simmons teaching aerobics on General Hospital in the early 80s.