The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obamaby David Remnick, Mark Deakins (Narrated by)
No story has been more central to America’s history this century than the rise of Barack Obama, and until now, no journalist or historian has written a book that fully investigates the circumstances and experiences of Obama’s life or explores the ambition behind his rise. Those familiar with Obama’s own best-selling memoir or/b>/b>/b>
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No story has been more central to America’s history this century than the rise of Barack Obama, and until now, no journalist or historian has written a book that fully investigates the circumstances and experiences of Obama’s life or explores the ambition behind his rise. Those familiar with Obama’s own best-selling memoir or his campaign speeches know the touchstones and details that he chooses to emphasize, but now—from a writer whose gift for illuminating the historical significance of unfolding events is without peer—we have a portrait, at once masterly and fresh, nuanced and unexpected, of a young man in search of himself, and of a rising politician determined to become the first African-American president.
The Bridge offers the most complete account yet of Obama’s tragic father, a brilliant economist who abandoned his family and ended his life as a beaten man; of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who had a child as a teenager and then built her career as an anthropologist living and studying in Indonesia; and of the succession of elite institutions that first exposed Obama to the social tensions and intellectual currents that would force him to imagine and fashion an identity for himself. Through extensive on-the-record interviews with friends and teachers, mentors and disparagers, family members and Obama himself, David Remnick allows us to see how a rootless, unaccomplished, and confused young man created himself first as a community organizer in Chicago, an experience that would not only shape his urge to work in politics but give him a home and a community, and that would propel him to Harvard Law School, where his sense of a greater mission emerged.
Deftly setting Obama’s political career against the galvanizing intersection of race and politics in Chicago’s history, Remnick shows us how that city’s complex racial legacy would make Obama’s forays into politics a source of controversy and bare-knuckle tactics: his clashes with older black politicians in the Illinois State Senate, his disastrous decision to challenge the former Black Panther Bobby Rush for Congress in 2000, the sex scandals that would decimate his more experienced opponents in the 2004 Senate race, and the story—from both sides—of his confrontation with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. By looking at Obama’s political rise through the prism of our racial history, Remnick gives us the conflicting agendas of black politicians: the dilemmas of men like Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, and Joseph Lowery, heroes of the civil rights movement, who are forced to reassess old loyalties and understand the priorities of a new generation of African-American leaders.
The Bridge revisits the American drama of race, from slavery to civil rights, and makes clear how Obama’s quest is not just his own but is emblematic of a nation where destiny is defined by individuals keen to imagine a future that is different from the reality of their current lives.
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“If you care about American politics, you have to read The Bridge.” –Salon
"Superb. . . . Remnick is a master blender of history, reporting and narrative.” —The Seattle Times
“Insight[ful] and nuance[d]. . . .Writing with emotional precision and a sure knowledge of politics, Mr. Remnick situates Mr. Obama’s career firmly within a historical context.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“There are a few people of such skill that envy gives way to admiration, and one is left feeling not hostility but respect. Remnick is one of those exceptional practitioners.”–Newsweek
“His work will serve as a building block for all future works on Obama. . . .Lovely and assured.” –Entertainment Weekly
“Engaging. . . .Sparkling.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“An expansive work. . . .Recounting a pivotal March 2007 speech in Selma, Remnick writes that Obama’s words were ‘at once personal, tribal, national and universal.’ The same can be said of The Bridge.” –Time
“An insightful, nuanced look at the making of the 44th president, placing his career in the context of history.” –The Chicago Tribune
“Absorbing and seminal. . . .Remnick is the most gifted and versatile journalist in America. . . .The Bridge is the first truly great biography of the man in all his promise and complexities.” –San Antonio Express-News
“Remnick deserves credit for telling Obama’s story more completely than others, for lending a reporter’s zeal to the task, for not ducking the discussion of race and for peeling back several layers of the onion that is Barack Obama.” –Gwen Ifill, The Washington Post
“What Remnick brings to a complex story are the tools of an exceptional reporter: persistence, curiosity, insight. . . .Rich in reflections and refractions.” –Bloomberg.com
“Compelling. . . .A living metaphor for an increasingly diverse America. . . .Remnick is one of the finest journalists in America, and has delivered a thorough, well-crafted early entry in what is sure to be a long list of Obama biographies.” –St. Petersburg Times
“[Remnick] manages to mine this young president’s familiar story—the absent Kenyan father, the itinerant and idealistic young white mother, a childhood of wandering from Hawaii to Indonesia and back again—and find new insights.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“Insightful, [a] valuable book. . . .Remnick places Obama’s story squarely in the framework of America’s civil rights struggle.” –The New Statesman
“Masterful, absorbing. . . .A splendid synthesis, an argument for [Remnick’s] reporting gifts. . . .For those interested in race as a social construct, The Bridge is essential reading.” –The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The book’s strengths should appeal to readers of all political stripes: a real depth of reporting and the elegant grace of Remnick’s literary style. . . .The reader is left with a nuanced account of our president’s self-crafted development.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A lively and enjoyable biography that is likely to remain definitive. . . .Remnick should already be planning a sequel.” –The Washington Monthly
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The BridgeThe Life and Rise of Barack Obama
By David Remnick
KnopfCopyright © 2010 David Remnick
All right reserved.
PrologueThe Joshua Generation
Brown Chapel Selma, Alabama
This is how it began, the telling of a story that changed America.
At midday on March 4, 2007, Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, was scheduled to speak at Brown Chapel, in Selma, Alabama. His campaign for President was barely a month old, and he had come South prepared to confront, for the first time, the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. He planned to discuss in public what so many believed would ultimately be his undoing-his race, his youth, his "exotic" background. "Who is Barack Obama?" Barack Hussein Obama? From now until Election Day, his opponents, Democratic and Republican, would ask the question on public platforms, in television and radio commercials, often insinuating a disqualifying otherness about the man: his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia; his Kenyan father; his Kansas- born, yet cosmopolitan, mother.
Obama's answer to that question helped form the language and distinctiveness of his campaign. Two years out of the Illinois State Senate and barely free of his college loans, Obama entered the Presidential race with a serious, yet unexceptional, set of center- left policy positions. They were not radically different from Clinton's, save on the crucial question of the Iraq war. Nor did he possess an impressive résumé of executive experience or legislative accomplishment. But who Obama was, where he came from, how he came to understand himself, and, ultimately, how he managed to project his own temperament and personality as a reflection of American ambitions and hopes would be at the center of his rhetoric and appeal. In addition to his political views, what Obama proposed as the core of his candidacy was a self-a complex, cautious, intelligent, shrewd, young African-American man. He was not a great man yet by any means, but he was the promise of greatness. There, in large measure, was the wellspring of his candidacy, its historical dimension and conceit, and there was no escaping its gall. Obama himself used words like "presumptuous" and "audacious."
In Selma, Obama prepared to nominate himself as the inheritor of the most painful of all American struggles, the struggle of race: not race as invoked by his predecessors in electoral politics or in the civil- rights movement, not race as an insistence on ethnicity or redress; rather, Obama would make his biracial ancestry a metaphor for his ambition to create a broad coalition of support, to rally Americans behind a narrative of moral and political progress. He was not necessarily the hero of that narrative, but he just might be its culmination. In the months to come, Obama borrowed brazenly from the language and imagery of an epochal American movement and applied it to a campaign for the Presidency.
The city of Selma clusters around the murky waters of the Alabama River. Selma had been a prosperous manufacturing center and an arsenal for the Confederate Army. Now it is a forlorn place of twenty thousand souls. Broad Street ordinarily lacks all but the most listless human traffic. African Americans live mostly in modest houses, shotgun shacks, and projects on the east side of town; whites tend to live, more prosperously, on the west side.
Selma's economy experiences a burst of vitality during the annual flowerings of historical memory. The surviving antebellum plantation houses are, for the most part, kept up for the few tourists who still come. In mid- April, Civil War buffs arrive in town to commemorate the Confederate dead in a re- enactment of the Battle of Selma, where, in 1865, a Confederate general, a particularly sadistic racist named Nathan Bedford Forrest, suffered defeat. The blacks in town do not share in the mood of Confederate nostalgia. An almost entirely black housing project just outside of town was, for decades, named for General Forrest, who had traded slaves and became Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
After the Civil War, black students came to Selma University, a small Bible college, and the town-a town of churches-became renowned as a center of African-American preaching. Selma, Ralph Abernathy wrote in his memoirs, "was to many of us the 'Capital of the Black Belt,' a place where intelligent young people and learned elders gathered." At the same time, because of the grip of Jim Crow, Selma was, as late as the nineteensixties, a place of literacy tests and poll taxes; almost no blacks were able to register to vote. Surrounded by disdainful white registrars, they were made to answer questions like "How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap?"
The local sheriff, Jim Clark, was in the grotesque folkloric mold of Birmingham's Bull Connor; he wore a button reading "Never" on his uniform and could be relied upon to take the most brutal measures against any sign of anti- segregationist protest-which is why, as the civil-rights movement developed, the grassroots leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) made Selma a test case in the struggle for voting rights.
On January 2, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to Brown Chapel, a brick citadel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and told the congregation that Selma had become a "symbol of bitter-end resistance to the civil-rights movement in the Deep South." Just as Montgomery had been the focus of the first bus boycotts and the struggle for civil rights and equal access to public facilities, Selma, King and his comrades decided, would be the battleground for voting rights.
Barack Obama had been invited to Selma more than a month before the anniversary event by his friend John Lewis, a veteran congressman from Atlanta. In his late sixties, portly and bald, Lewis was known around Capitol Hill and in the African-American community less as a legislator than as a popularly elected griot, a moral exemplar and a wizened truthteller of the civil-rights movement. During the long "conservative darkness," from the first Reagan inaugural onward, Lewis said, it was especially "hard and essential" to keep progressive politics alive. "And the only way to do that was to keep telling the story," he said. While King was organizing for the S.C.L.C. in Alabama, Lewis had been the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (sncc). Lewis was present at nearly every important march. He was at King's side at the front of countless demonstrations and in meetings with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office. He was the youngest-and most militant-of the many speakers at the March on Washington in 1963; now he was the only one among them still alive. People called John Lewis a hero every day of his life, but now he was feeling quite unheroic, unsure whom to support: the Clintons, who had "never disappointed" him over the years, or a young and talented man who had introduced himself to the country with a thrilling speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston. At first, Lewis signaled to Obama that he would be with him, but the Clintons and their circle were appealing to his sense of friendship and loyalty-and they were almost as hard to resist as the lure of history. Feeling acute pressure, Lewis promised both the Clintons and Obama that he would soon have "an executive session with myself" and decide.
For Lewis, growing up in Pike County, Alabama, Jim Crow was like a familiar but ominous neighbor. As a boy, he wanted to leave so badly that he dreamed of making a wooden bus out of the pine trees that surrounded his family's house and riding it all the way to California. His parents were sharecroppers and he was one of ten children. He wanted to be a preacher, and, to practice, he declaimed sermons to the chickens in the coop in the backyard. He preached to them weekdays and Sundays alike, marrying the roosters and hens, presiding over funerals for the dead. ("There was something magical, almost mystical, about that moment when those dozens and dozens of chickens, all wide awake, were looking straight at me, and I was looking back at them, all of us in total, utter silence. It felt very spiritual, almost religious.")
In 1955, Lewis listened on the radio to a young preacher from Atlanta giving a sermon called "Paul's Letter to the American Christians." The preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke in the voice of the apostle Paul addressing Christians, white Christians, condemning them for a lack of compassion toward their black brothers and sisters. As he listened to the sermon, Lewis wanted to become a minister like Dr. King. Later that year, he joined a movement that started when a department store clerk in Montgomery named Rosa Parks was arrested after she refused to change her seat on the Cleveland Avenue bus. As a seminarian at Troy State, Lewis took workshops in nonviolent resistance and joined the drive to integrate lunch counters and bus- station waiting rooms in Nashville and other Southern towns and cities. He passed out the axioms of Jesus, Gandhi, Thoreau, and King to his fellow demonstrators even as he was being taunted as an agitator, a "nigger," a "coon," as teenaged thugs flicked lighted cigarettes at his neck. As a Freedom Rider, Lewis was nearly killed at the Greyhound station in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Getting beaten, arrested, and jailed became a kind of routine, his regular service, and, after each incident, he would rest a little, as if all he had done was to put in a decent day's labor:
Some of the deepest, most delicious moments of my life were getting out of jail in a place like Americus, or Hattiesburg, or Selma- especially Selma-and finding my way to the nearest Freedom House, taking a good long shower, putting on a pair of jeans and a fresh shirt and going to some little Dew Drop Inn, some little side of-the-road juke joint where I'd order a hamburger or cheese sandwich and a cold soda and walk over to that jukebox and stand there with a quarter in my hand, and look over every song on that box because this choice had to be just right.... and then I would finally drop that quarter in and punch up Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield or Aretha, and I would sit down with my sandwich, and I would let that music wash over me, just wash right through me. I don't know if I've ever felt anything so sweet.
John Lewis knew Selma, knew all its little streets, the churches, the cafés, the Hotel Albert, the paved roads in the white parts of town, the shanties and the George Washington Carver projects where the blacks lived. He knew Jim Clark, the sheriff, of course, and the mayor, Joe Smitherman, who, although less virulent than Clark, slipped and spoke of "Martin Luther Coon." Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were few places in Selma where black people could meet safely, especially if it was known that they were meeting for political purposes. They got together at a couple of modest restaurants-Clay & Liston's, Walker's Café sometimes-but mostly they gathered at Brown Chapel and at the First Baptist Church, just down the street.
At the rallies and services at Brown Chapel, most of the speakers were from the S.C.L.C. or sncc, the Urban League or the N.A.A.C.P.-the mainstream groups of the civil- rights movement-but Malcolm X, too, had his turn in the pulpit. In early February, 1965, while King sat in a Selma jail cell, Malcolm spoke in Selma, warning, "I think the people in this part of the world would do well to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and give him what he's asking for and give it to him fast, before some other factions come along and try to do it another way."
King had received the Nobel Prize for Peace in December, and he described the "creative battle" that "twenty- two million Negroes" were waging against "the starless midnight of racism." Now, in early February, he wrote a letter from his Selma jail cell that ran as an advertisement in the New York Times:
When the King of Norway participated in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to me he surely did not think that in less than sixty days I would be in jail ... By jailing hundreds of Negroes, the city of Selma, Alabama, has revealed the persisting ugliness of segregation to the nation and the world. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed many decent Americans were lulled into complacency because they thought the day of difficult struggle was over. Why are we in jail? Have you ever been required to answer 100 questions on government, some abstruse even to a political science specialist, merely to vote? Have you ever stood in line with over a hundred others and after waiting an entire day seen less than ten given the qualifying test?
THIS IS SELMA, ALABAMA. THERE ARE MORE NEGROES IN JAIL WITH ME THAN THERE ARE ON THE VOTING ROLLS.
But apart from voting rights, merely to be a person in Selma is not easy. When reporters asked Sheriff Clark if a woman defendant was married, he replied, "She's a nigger woman and she hasn't got a Miss or Mrs. in front of her name."
This is the U.S.A. in 1965. We are in jail simply because we cannot tolerate these conditions for ourselves or our nation ...
Sincerely, Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was released soon afterward, but Sheriff Clark and his men went on attacking the voting- rights protesters in town, shocking them with cattle prods, throwing them in jail. Since the day King arrived in Selma, Clark's men had jailed four thousand men and women. Lewis gave a handwritten statement to reporters in Selma saying that Clark had proved himself "basically no different from a Gestapo officer during the Fascist slaughter of the Jews." At a confrontation on the steps of the Selma court - house, he punched one of King's allies, the Reverend C. T. Vivian, in the mouth so hard that he broke a finger. Then he arrested Vivian. "Would a fiction writer," King wrote a few weeks later in the New York Times, "have the temerity to invent a character wearing a sheriff's badge at the head of a helmeted posse who punched a clergyman in the mouth and then proudly boasted: 'If I hit him, I don't know it.'"
At a nighttime rally in the nearby town of Marion, a state trooper shot a young Army veteran and pulpwood worker named Jimmie Lee Jackson twice in the stomach. (Jackson had attempted to register to vote five times.) In the same skirmish, Jackson's mother, Viola, was beaten, and his eighty-two- year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, was injured, too, but declared himself ready for the next demonstration. Jackson lingered for several days, then died.
At the funeral, in Brown Chapel, King declared, "Jimmie Lee Jackson is speaking to us from the casket and he is saying to us that we must substitute courage for caution.... We must not be bitter, and we must not harbor ideas of retaliating with violence." James Bevel, one of the youngest leaders of sncc, suggested that the movement lead a march, from Selma to the capital, Montgomery, place Jimmie Lee Jackson's casket on the steps of the capitol, and demand justice from the governor, George C. Wallace. Earlier that month, Bevel had been beaten with a nightstick by Sheriff Clark, thrown into a jail cell, and pummeled with cold water from a hose.
When Governor Wallace heard reports about what King and the others were planning, he told his aides, "I'm not gonna have a bunch of niggers walking along a highway in this state as long as I'm governor." Over the years, Lewis has told the story of the afternoon of March 7, 1965-"Bloody Sunday"-hundreds of times. He tells it best in his memoir, Walking with the Wind: I can't count the number of marches I have participated in in my lifetime, but there was something peculiar about this one. It was more than disciplined. It was somber and subdued, almost like a funeral procession....
There was no singing, no shouting-just the sound of scuffling feet. There was something holy about it, as if we were walking down a sacred path. It reminded me of Gandhi's march to the sea. Dr. King used to say there is nothing more powerful than the rhythm of marching feet, and that was what this was, the marching feet of a determined people. That was the only sound you could hear. Lewis and a young comrade from the S.C.L.C., Hosea Williams, led the march-a huge, double- file line of six hundred people. Lewis was twenty-five at the time, a slight, shy, yet determined figure in a tan raincoat with a knapsack on his back containing a book, a toothbrush, and a couple of pieces of fruit ("in case I got hungry in jail"). Lewis and Williams led the crowd from Brown Chapel, past a housing project, and toward the arching span of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. (Pettus was the last Confederate general to serve in the U.S. Senate.) At the crest of the bridge, Lewis and Williams came to a halt. Six hundred men, women, and children stopped behind them.
There facing us at the bottom of the other side, stood a sea of bluehelmeted, blue-uniformed Alabama state troopers, line after line of them, dozens of battle- ready lawmen stretched from one side of U.S. Highway 80 to the other.... On one side of the road I could see a crowd of about a hundred whites, laughing and hollering, waving Confederate flags.
Excerpted from The Bridge by David Remnick Copyright © 2010 by David Remnick. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This
“Writing with emotional precision and a sure knowledge of politics, Mr. Remnick situates Mr. Obama’s career firmly within a historical context.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A brilliantly constructed, flawlessly written biography.” – Douglas Brinkley, The Los Angeles Times
“Exhaustively researched…Remnick has many important additions and corrections to make to our reading of “Dreams From My Father”…The book’s insights into Obama’s character will be very useful for understanding the man’s performance as president.” –Garry Wills, The New York Times Book Review
“An expansive work…Recounting a pivotal March 2007 speech in Selma, Remnick writes that Obama’s words were ‘at once personal, tribal, national and universal.’ The same can be said of The Bridge.” –Time
“Remnick deserves credit for telling Obama’s story more completely than others, for lending a reporter’s zeal to the task, for not ducking the discussion of race and for peeling back several layers of the onion that is Barack Obama.” –The Washington Post
“What Remnick brings to a complex story are the tools of an exceptional reporter: persistence, curiosity, insight. He weaves in hours of on-the-record interviews with schoolmates, teachers, mentors, advisers and scholars…rich in reflections and refractions.” –Bloomberg.com
“Superb. Beautifully written and artfully constructed.” –The Economist
“Eminently readable…the great achievement of the book is that Remnick manages to say something different…Remnick himself is a bridge—to seeing fresh a man we think we know but only now, in his hard days in the White House, are beginning to understand.” –The Boston Globe
“An insightful, nuanced look at the making of the 44ths president, placing his career in the context of history.” –Chicago Tribune
“There are a few people of such skill that envy gives way to admiration, and one is left feeling not hostility but respect. Remnick is one of those exceptional practitioners…Remnick's biography depends not on nuggets but on his characteristically dispassionate, richly observed assessment of his subject. Without sermonizing or sentimentalizing, Remnick sheds light on the complicated role of race in Obama's rise and victory and, perhaps most relevantly, in the conduct of his presidency.” –Jonathan Meacham, Newsweek
“Ambitious and well executed…It’s fair and high-minded, sensitive but dispassionate, admiring but never fawning…It’s this mix of intellect, fact, and feeling that distinguish Remnick’s assessment of Obama’s victory.”–Time Out New York
“His work will serve as a building block for all future works on Obama…lovely and assured.” –Entertainment Weekly
"What Remnick brings to a complex story are the tools of an exceptional reporter: persistence, curiosity, insight. He weaves in hours of on-the-record interviews with schoolmates, teachers, mentors, advisers and scholars…rich in reflections and refractions." –Bloomberg.com
"Superb. Beautifully written and artfully constructed." –The Economist
"Eminently readable…the great achievement of the book is that Remnick manages to say something different…Remnick himself is a bridge—to seeing fresh a man we think we know but only now, in his hard days in the White House, are beginning to understand." –The Boston Globe
"An insightful, nuanced look at the making of the 44ths president, placing his career in the context of history." –Chicago Tribune
"Energetic…offers shrewd insights…Some of the best pages in the book are [Remnick’s] sustained reappraisal of Obama’s memoir.’ –The New York Review
"No other book to date is better at revealing the roots and personality of Barack Obama. Remnick has set a lofty bar for future biographers." –Library Journal
"A world-ranging, eye-opening, comprehensive life to date of the 44th President." –Kirkus
"A lively and enjoyable biography that is likely to remain definitive…Remnick should already be planning a sequel." –Washington Monthly
“Remnick’s views have the capacity to jolt…like his subject, Remnick wields a skilful and nuanced pen. None, except those who (somewhat unsubtly) want to ‘take America back’, could fail to be moved.” –The Financial Times
“Has many important additions and corrections to make to our reading of Dreams from My Father.” –New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2010
“A balanced, highly readable and well-researched account.” –Financial Times non-fiction favorites of 2010
“Beautifully written, artfully constructed and full of new detail about the president.” –The Economist
“A truly masterful account.” –The Daily Beast
Meet the Author
David Remnick was a reporter for The Washington Post for ten years, including four in Moscow. He joined The New Yorker as a writer in 1992 and has been the magazine’s editor since 1998. His previous book, King of the World, a biography of Muhammad Ali, was selected by Time as the top nonfiction book of the year. Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire won a Pulitzer Prize.
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I felt so refreshed after finishing this book. I had been feeling disheartened and worried that so many of us seem to wish our president, and hence out nation, to fail. Now I feel confident that Obama will be among the top rank of US presidents, whatever the ignoramuses Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and the FoxNews dittoheads think. We are very fortunate to have such a balanced and brilliant man at the helm. I hope that many millions of Americans will read this informative, entertaining and at times very funny book. David Remnick is an eminently qualified author. Not only has he won the Pulitzer Prize for his writing but he is the editor of America's most respected literary weekly, The New Yorker. At almost 600 pages the book is long, but it's so well written it flies by. I finished it in four days! Thank you, Mr. Remnick! My hat's off to you... Go-bama!
A masterful story teller, Remnick gives voice to the people (current and past), events (historical and recent), and struggles (heroic and mundane) that shaped the life of our young President, Barack Obama and that led to the election of our nation's First African American president. As the collection of stories gathered from Remnick's exhaustive personal interviews and research unfold THE BRIDGE is at once informative, inspirational and thought provoking. Some of the stories and events are gloriously triumphant while others are bitterly painful causing the reader to experience a full measure of human emotions. Reading this book for me was reminiscent of listening to a parent relay wonderful memories at an early morning breakfast table or of sitting at the knee of an elder calling forth fond remembrances with a twinkle in the eye. Far from an elder, in fact the reverse is true, for me Remnick captures that experience of being transported into historical events. A word of caution here, at the beginning it may take some time to settle into Remnick's method of story telling however once mastered he holds the readers rapt attention, which is how I believe history should be taught.
This dense and detailed look at a moment in history when Obama began his run for the White House in the end gives a reader the sense of a blind man running his hands over an elephant, or of Galileo gazing at the stars. The detail just makes one jealous to know those things we are not reading about--what was Obama thinking, not just what he was saying. One wants the man himself, not just the story of him. Every book about this period is bound to be a disappointment in itself. It cannot capture the utter impossibility of the moment--the day by day disbelief of hearing Obama is still in the race and gaining, rather than losing, adherents. Of Obama facing challenges (Reverend Wright) greater than those that had brought down more conventional candidates (Kerry's Swift boat controversy), and emerging even larger than before. It does not tell us, in the end, how this happened. But among books of the period, this will rank among the best. Remick's calm amidst the forest of details, and clear, thoughtful delivery make him a companionable guide. He is not so casual as to make one doubt his sources, but he does not flaunt his erudition or access. This must be one of the most readable tomes on a time when America suprised everyone--even Americans.
Hah so true you rock my friend
The only reason id read this book is "know thy enemt"
Dont care for him