Unlike real, actual parties — where I’m always the first one there — when it comes to “literary” parties, I’m typically way behind the cool kids’ schedule. So it probably comes as no surprise that I just picked up Primary Colors, by Anonymous. Primary Colors is THE hot political novel, giving insights into what makes the American political machine go. In the early 1990′s. Meaning last century. As the old saying goes, though, better late than never.
I really liked this book. I’m not active in party politics (although I have my beliefs and left-leanings), so what I know about politics comes from the mainstream media. And this book, which tells the fictional story of a man named Henry Burton’s involvement in the Democratic primary campaign for Jack Stanton – governor of an unnamed Southern state – really opens the kimono on a political campaign, in what I thought was a believable way. I seem to recall quite a bit of controversy surrounding this book when it came out, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the publishing of a book anonymously should stir controversy, or at least speculation, regardless of the subject matter of the book (it was later revealed that the author was journalist Joe Klein); secondly, the characters involved and the dirt that takes place on the campaign trail depicted in the book — even though it is a work of fiction — bore a striking resemblance to President Clinton’s 1992 campaign.
This book has it all. There’s a love story, there’s a dynamic of our protagonist struggling with finding his true purpose, there’s lots of scandal, and there’s a real look behind what you see on tv and the strategizing that goes on to make you want to like a political candidate. A real eye-opener, and a well-written read.