An article in this morning's Houston Chronicle discusses the special affinity many writers have for a president-elect who is himself an author.

Author Rick Moody (The Right Livelihoods, Back Bay Books, Aug. 2008)had this to say:

"…I think the larger issue is cultural. There's a trickle down from the top in the way art exists inside and outside of the culture as a whole. Here in the USA, you could feel in the Bush years how little regard there was for it. People who disliked art, literature, dance, fine arts, they had a lot of cover for this antipathy. There's reason to believe that we are in for a much better period."

Check out the link above to read the thoughts of illustrious authors Toni Morrison, Jane Smiley, Jonathan Safran Foer, and others. Then let us know, do you believe the country's leadership has an impact on the place of writers and literature in our culture? Or do you feel respect for the arts emanates from the family, the schools, or society in general?


JoAnn Ross said…
I'm not sure actually having written a book (and I bought both of our President-elect's early in the campaign) necessarily makes him more prone to support artistic endeavors than someone who might not write but who reads a great deal and is curious about the world around him or her.

But, since writers are readers, that's cool we're going to have a "Writer-in-Chief."

My only quibble with the article was Jane Smiley's description of "hack" speechwriters. Having written political speeches myself, the term reminds me of when people accuse popular fiction writers of "churning out" our books.
Joni Rodgers said…
I agree with the trickle down idea Moody talks about, not in the sense that Obama the writer will support his fellow scribes, but in the idea that Americans will begin to respect and appreciate education and intellectual discourse again.

I missed my opportunity to go to college, so I have no more formal education than Joe Six Pack, who used to be the icon for ignorant slob but has recently been raised up as having some sort of zen folk wisdom. Obama's election is the triumph over the "anti-intellectualism" that tried to turn uneducated, salt-of-the-earth people against the evil Harvard grads, thinking that we-the-unwashed-masses don't know the difference between "achey breaky heart" and "tis a gift to be simple."

The craftsmanship of writers has greater market value in a culture that values art, literacy, and education. I think the IQ of Americans is on the rise. That's going to be good for the publishing industry.

And I've no doubt the nation's breweries will still survive.
Great discussion, JoAnn and Joni, and you both bring up good points.

Personally, I'll be satisfied if the economy recovers enough that people can afford to go out and spend money on books again. Lots and lots of books. :)
Joni Rodgers said…
Well, there is that! Yes. An ed at a big house in NY told me before the election that she felt foreign sub-rights for fiction would be worth more if Obama was elected because the rest of the world would experience a big bump in respect for American intelligence and integrity.
JoAnn Ross said…
Okay, here's where I admit that I actually liked "Achey Breaky Heart." At least for the first few weeks before it became ubiquitous.

It had a good beat and you could dance to it. :)
Donna Maloy said…
I don't know if you all remember Barbara Jordan, one of the most articulate politicians I have ever heard. A book of her quotations just came out, reminding me all over again how wonderful it was to listen to someone who not only had something to say but could say it clearly, emotionally, and convincingly. I am hopeful that successful writer/politicians like Jordan and Obama will inspire some of our younger citizens.
As for Obama's impact on the arts, how can it be anything but good to have a leader who values the power of the written word to affect people's hearts? This might not translate directly into increased sales of our books, but I am hopeful (always hopeful) that it may signal at least a small-scale return to respect for those who love language and know how to use it well for all kinds of entertainment/information.
I guess enough soap box for now.

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