LEAP YEAR by Steve Erickson


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In his first nonfiction--a sort of drug-free version of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail--Erickson (Tours of the Black Clock, 1989, etc.) reports on the 1988 Presidential campaign while presenting his deeply disenchanted views of both the candidates and American society. Erickson begins this slim (185 pp.), gonzo journalistic opinion piece with the contention that America has lost its special place in the world. No longer are we the land of opportunity and liberty: we have become, he argues, a petty nation where patriotism is judged by what a person owns. Representative of this change is the development of the conservative movement--which has gone from Barry Goldwater's Jeffersonian conservatives, who believed that people are born with freedom, to Ronald Reagan's Hamiltonlan conservatives, who believe that people's freedom extends from the state to the individual. Following the campaign, the author unleashes a series of attacks upon the candidates, both Republican and Democrat, that illustrate his horror at the evolution of the US. ""We won't call Bush a political whore because it insults whores; a whore engages in an honest business transaction, the pleasure of her for the money of you."" Etched onto the author's coverage of the campaign is the symbolic presence of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's paramour. In 1789, at the age of 15, Hemings chose to remain Jefferson's slave and return to the US rather than stay in Paris as a free woman. The magnitude and nature of Hemings' choice are symbolic to Erickson of the choices confronting both America and key individuals--e.g., should Jesse Jackson continue to challenge America's perception of itself or should he compromise and take his place among America's mainstream leaders? Uneven, but often amusing and nearly always provocative.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1989
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster