Richard North Patterson. 2008. The Race. London: Pan Books.
I have taken to reading fiction as I do not have any entertainment in my life. Being a pensioner, my pursuit of entertainment is limited to what I can find in my home. Most of TV entertainment is puerile so I have taken up reading best selling fiction. And I have discovered that though the fairy tale format dominates, there are books that manage to infuse into the fairy tale, the kind of insights into human nature and existence that are interesting and stimulating.
Richard North Patterson’s The Race is such a book. The race of the title refers to the American presidential race and Patterson’s protagonist is a candidate. He is the typical hero of the fairy tale. We see in him the kind of human being that we all aspire to be. He is a politician who rises above greed and the need for power for the sake of power.
[I have a very jaundiced view of politicians. I see them as a curse but, until we can find better ways to organise our societies, a necessary evil. So Patterson's protagonist remains a romantic hero]
This is not a book review in the typical sense. I am simply sharing a few quotes from the book that present truths that we either ignore or simply accept as unavoidable.
p.25. Senator Corey Grace despised a politics that pitted one group against another, and policies that promoted the abuse of the weak by the strong.
“Bribing politicians with donations is the only way the wealthy can offset the ill effects of letting ordinary people vote.”
In Price’s grand design, he was the orchestrator of the Hydra, through which the various tentacles of the party-business, Christian conservatives, right-wing media, and advocacy groups from the gun lobby to the tax cutters – combined to dominate America’s politics and culture.
“... Despite his modesty, Alex here’s a kind of genius. Maybe he’ll treat you to what I call his ‘theory of postmodernist media.” ...
Shrugging, Rohr told Marcotta clinically, “The old model was that news is fact, and objectivity the ideal. Today’s truth is that ‘news,’ like anything else we sell to the public, is a product.
“Our news product isn’t some abstract notion of truth, or even reality. It’s a story – consistent and repetitive, with a message that’s emotionally fulfilling to the viewer.” ... “We mislead no one. Turn on Rohr News, and you’re getting exactly what you want. I can help you feel better about this war, or fighting terrorists, and you don’t have to think about them anymore. If we also use that power to promote our friends and advance our interests, so be it. News is business, not a public service.”
Suddenly Corey experienced himself and Lexie less as a couple whom others might misapprehend than as two people who might define, in the next few sentences, whether their interaction would be trivial or truthful.
“... Take politics as practised by Magnus Price: inflame your supporters by defining those who don’t think like they do as the enemy, hell-bent on tearing down the ‘real America,” until half the people in this country hate each other, and the rest think politics is so toxic they don’t even bother to vote. Or take the media as perverted by Alex Rohr, which teaches you to despise people you don’t even know. It’s all a cynical exercise in marketing – find your demographic, and the exploit it.” ... “In the America of Price and Rohr, voters are lab rats in a political-science experiment, programmed to be even more frightened of ‘the other’ than the folks I grew up with – Lord knows that my own parents certainly are. But they’re really not much different than the liberals on both coasts who call them ‘flyover people,’ making no effort to imagine how the world looks to them. Instead of seeing one another, we’ve started living in gated communities of the mind created by jerks like Price and Rohr. It makes me want to puke.
[Price represents the powerful corporate bosses who buy and manipulate those who hold office and Alex Rohr, the powerful media boss, who coerces through the myths he creates. (Magnus Price = Big Money) (Rohr, I translate as roar and a-lex as having to do with reporting and presenting what people want to hear as the truth rather than the truth itself)]
“...truth is a terrible thing, right? We need our leaders to be robots, ‘cause we’re too dumb to elect real humans. Next time I hear some failed presidential candidate say, ‘Next time I won’t let my handlers keep me from being me, ‘ I’m throwing a brick through my TV screen.”
“But that’s exactly what Democrats do,” Corey rejoined. “They haven’t nominated a human in years – just androids whose speeches sound like a tape recording spliced from focus groups. I’d ask where the hell you find these people, except I know – the Senate.”
“From my own experience, being a privileged white guy is the biggest affirmative action program in America – anyone who doesn’t get that isn’t paying attention. So I’m absolutely against more privileges for guys like us.”
“About religion,” Lexie asked, “what exactly do you believe?
... “ not much,” he answered. “But I do believe that there’s a balance in the world: that kindness breeds kindness, and that evil comes to those who perpetrate it. God doesn’t control our destiny – we do. To me character is fate.”
... it’s hard to find peers, and other people project onto us the things they need us to be. Not that we don’t ask for that. But that leaves it up to us to remember the laws of gravity.”
... “I call for a new beginning, and an end to the wilful obliviousness to all that we must face together. We must be more than the party of business or religion. We must not seek power by dividing the country on the basis of creed or culture or even the fear of terrorism. And we must speak clearly about what it means to be conservative.
It is not conservative to turn one group of Americans against another.
It is not conservative to despoil the environment that our children’s children will inherit. Nor is it conservative to squander the lives of our soldiers in a war that degrades our military strength.” ... “To conserve means not only to honor that past, but to meet the challenges of the future, leaving our country better than we found it.”
[Patterson puts a new emphasis on the word “conservative.” He emphasises the idea of ‘conservation,’ not the usual association with ‘conservative’ as backward-looking.]
“I believe in a God of Love.
“I believe that truth can be found in all religions, and that all who pray address the same God.
I believe that how we live is a truer expression of faith than any prayer we recite in public.
I look to God for wisdom and calm. And,” he finished pointedly, “I am far more concerned with whether I’m on His side than with asserting that He is on mine.”
Despite its intelligence, The Race tells an exciting and intriguing story and can be read simply as a thriller.