Everyone about to soil themselves with love for Obama. And who can blame them? He seems so Christ-like and clean compared to the shrewd devilry and bumbling incompetence of the last eight years. It ’s kind of unfair to send a guy with such potential to run a war-weary, economically depressed, globally-hated country, but who else would you want doing it right about now? So here are some pieces feeding the maniaÂ today, a great day of great days. Goodbye George W. Douche. Welcome Barack Obama.
The indefatigable Robert McCrum on “transitional English”: which language will Obama be speaking today? English or Globish?
I won’t refer to this very often, but for the past two years or so I’ve been working on a book subtitled The Making of Global English for the 21st Century, in which I’ve been exploring the how and why of the ways in which global English has become a supranational phenomenon. Its working title is Globish [pronounced Globe-ish] and I’m constantly on the look-out for examples of what I think of as contemporary Globish.
Last week, there were two. The first involved Obama, the second (to move from the sublime to the ridiculous) Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The magnificent Martin Levin on Obama’s reading list: HE READS WILLINGLY AND EAGERLY?????
Everyone — at least everyone in the world of books — is almost as eager to know Barack Obama’s reading habits as his plans for the economy or U.S. foreign policy.
I’m aware that Karl Rove is constantly trying to tell us how surprisingly well-read President Bush is (this is the last time I’ll need to capitalize the P in President when mentioning him). The former White House eminence grise claims that the Chief read 95 books in 2006 and 51 the following year. Excuse me, but I’m skeptical: When does somebody with that (presumed) workload have time to read a book-and-a-half a week? I can believe that many have been put in front of him, or that some staffer might have briefed him on them, but not that he read them all.
Unless they were comic books.
Plus, he simply didn’t talk about books, or refer to them. He doesn’t seem bookish. He might have been a something-stained wretch, but it was certainly not ink.
Obama, on the other hand, is eager to talk about books, books he’s read, books that have shaped him. And, of course, he’s written two bestselling books entirely unghosted, i.e., all by himself, a rarity among political figures.
The BBC on inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander: a tough job to have…
Previous inaugural poets have not had the most impressive track records. Indeed, Ms Alexander is only the fourth to fill the role. Robert Frost was the first, at John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. It wasn’t his finest hour, as the sun and wind dazzled him so much that he abandoned the poem he had written for the occasion, and instead recited “The Gift Outright”, which he knew by heart.
President Clinton, too, had mixed success with his choices of poet – Maya Angelou the first time and Miller Williams the second (you are forgiven for saying “who he?“). The Republicans, it seems, are poet-phobic.
Walt Whitman once said: “To have great poetry there must be great audiences, too”. He may have been talking about the quality of a poet’s readership, but tomorrow, Ms Alexander’s verse may well be broadcast to more people than any poem ever composed. Will such an historic occasion give rise to historic poetry? The public voice in American poetry of course has its roots in Whitman but, interestingly, the poet who struck a chord the most with Americans after 9/11 was W H Auden, with his chilling: “The unmentionable odour of death / Offends the September night”.