This month’s issue of Vanity Fair features a review of a new biography BarackObama: The Story by David Maraniss, and centers around his relationships with a fellow college student, Alex McNear and the letters she kept during the period. Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss
As a TSE fan what really interested me was an excerpt from a letter he wrote to her discussing a paper she was writing on the ‘The Wasteland.’ Beyond anything else his writing reinforces Obama’s intellectual strength and broad vision even at this early stage of his life. Imagine George Bush or Romney… no I won’t go there.
Here’s the excerpt.
‘I haven’t read “The Waste Land” for a year, and I never did bother to check all the footnotes. But I will hazard these statements—Eliot contains the same ecstatic vision which runs from Münzer to Yeats. However, he retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter—life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?’