Bestselling author Lewis (Liar's Poker, 1989, etc.) applies his sense of humor to a subject that really needs it: the 1996...


"TRAIL FEVER: Spin Doctors, Rented Strangers, Thumb Wrestlers, Toe Suckers, Grizzly Bears, and Other Creatures on the Road to the White House"

Bestselling author Lewis (Liar's Poker, 1989, etc.) applies his sense of humor to a subject that really needs it: the 1996 presidential campaign. To escape the boring but politically prudent staged events offered by the Clinton and Dole campaigns, Lewis focuses on the secondary players. This draws him to candidates like Morry Taylor, who responds to the challenge of hosting a reception at the Republican National Convention with a motorcycle rally featuring 7,000 Republicans on Harleys, and Alan Keyes, whose verbal virtuosity makes Lewis a (temporary) believer every time he speaks, despite suspicions that Keyes might have a screw loose somewhere. Among noncandidates there are the spin doctors and ""rented strangers""--professional campaign operatives--as well as Senator John McCain, whose ""alarming preference for the truth"" so disorients Lewis that it becomes difficult for him to function as a journalist. Please note: The purpose here is not to explain why Dole lost and Clinton won. In an era where major American presidential candidates are congenitally allergic to reality, taking them and their campaigns at face value reveals little. By setting aside the official stories concocted by rented strangers and disseminated by the mainstream press, yet avoiding the automatic cynicism of the professional critic, Lewis conveys a sense of what is really going on. His lack of enthusiasm for a campaign (Dole's) that ""plans its trips to the bathroom four days before it goes"" is easy to understand, regardless of one's politics, and his recognition that Americans' indifference to electoral politics is a sensible response to ""this crap"" is oddly optimistic: The people are sane even if our leaders are not. Written with Hunter Thompson's eye for the revealing detail but without his self-indulgence, and with Mark Russell's facility with one-liners but without his superficiality, this is a book to be enjoyed.

Pub Date: June 9, 1997


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997