Democracy, an American Novel

Democracy, an American Novel

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by Henry Adams
     
 

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"Democracy" is what "Primary Colors" would have been if the latter had been well-written. Like Joe Klein, Adams published his book anonymously and skewered a number of contemporary politicians (including President Rutherford B. Hayes). But Adams goes two steps further: his novel is a scathing commentary more on the American political system in general than on one… See more details below

Overview

"Democracy" is what "Primary Colors" would have been if the latter had been well-written. Like Joe Klein, Adams published his book anonymously and skewered a number of contemporary politicians (including President Rutherford B. Hayes). But Adams goes two steps further: his novel is a scathing commentary more on the American political system in general than on one administration in particular, and his characters are iconic and recognizable in any era. In "Democracy," the nation's capital "swarms with simple-minded exhibitions of human nature; men and women curiously out of place, whom it would be cruel to ridicule and ridiculous to weep over." But Adams is not hesitant about being cruel in his portrayal of Washington's residents, and he saves his weeping for the true victims in his novel: the American people. The typical American senator combines "the utmost pragmatical self-assurance and overbearing temper with the narrowest education and meanest personal experience that ever existed in any considerable government." The story concerns Madeleine Lee, an intelligent and well-meaning (if somewhat naive) New York widow, who, bored with her cosmopolitan lifestyle, travels to Washington to learn what makes the nation tick. She and her sister are quickly surrounded by a diverse group of politicians, lobbyists, and foreign diplomats, and she finds herself courted by Silas Ratcliffe, a senator with presidential aspirations whose talent "consisted in the skill with which he evaded questions of principle." During one heated (and humorous) argument about George Washington's merits, Ratcliffe sums up his view of politics: "If virtue won't answer our purpose, then we must use vice, or our opponents will put us out of office." Adams's prose is almost Jamesian in its measured pacing (and this may simply bore some readers); the initial chapters are unhurried as he weaves the web of the plot and sketches his all-too-believable characters. Along the way he tosses barbed zingers at every target. The climactic passages are among the most comically riveting, emotionally intense, and morally satisfying finales I've read in a satire: as you might expect, nobody gets exactly what they want, but everyone gets what they deserve.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781475035353
Publisher:
CreateSpace
Publication date:
04/24/2012
Pages:
132
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.30(d)

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