Monday, September 15, 2008

The One Who Stands by Her Man

I couldn't stop myself. I broke down and read American Wife. I found Prep, Sittenfeld's previous novel, incredibly readable, so I knew this would at the very least be an entertaining diversion.

My understanding is that Sittenfeld researched and wrote the book out of a fascination with Laura Bush, out of a desire to understand her. I can absolutely see that. Here's a woman who seems to be so different from her husband, and a woman who says so little about anything, that it really would be interesting to know who she is, what she stands for. In Sittenfeld's version she's not only a Democrat but a pretty liberal Democrat; she's pro-choice, she's against the war. She's not born-again, and doesn't even practice any organized religion. Is any of this true? Who knows. Sure, it's nice to think so, but this is a work of speculative fiction, and as such perhaps says more about Sittenfeld, and maybe about the book's readers, than it does about Laura Bush.

Because she's quiet, because she's private, she's, in a way, a cipher. Believe that women should stand in the shadows quietly, caring only about children and children's books? You can believe that's the kind of woman she is. Believe that she's incredibly decent, and that if she loves her husband he must be decent, as well? You can believe that, if you want. Believe that she's secretly someone who loves her husband but hates what he stands for? You're also possibly correct. Believe that she's more Rovian than Rove? Have at it.

Because I wasn't looking for real insight into the mind of Laura Bush I enjoyed the novel. It's also essentially fluff, a good diversion. I read it waiting to get to the parts everyone knows about, to see how Sittenfeld would handle them: the deadly crash, buying the baseball team, becoming born-again, etc. In the end, I was left wishing that Bush would actually write a memoir, and that if she would write one that it would be as honest as this work of fiction pretends to be. But of course that will never happen, and instead, at the end, we are left only with our own speculations and desires.

1 comment:

tunsie said...

marty,my dear friend,is silent around his wife she is definitely the boss in the family.he was very successful as an accountant,he still has a couple of clients.it is not out of fear it is out of respect.she runs the house with an iron YELL.if marty and I had the children out and when we brought jennifer and david,if they had dirt on them or they were messy she would lose her mind,she would scream while she was taking thier clothes off so she could put them in the tub.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie