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Published in: Society 2/2021

10-05-2021 | BOOK REVIEW

Barack Obama, A Promised Land (Penguin, 2020), Pp.768. ISBN: 978–0241491515

Superman inside the Barrel: The Deep Story of Obama’s Promised Land

Author: Matthew Flinders

Published in: Society | Issue 2/2021

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Excerpt

It’s very rare that a book tells a single story, still rarer for a political memoir. The paradox of Obama’s A Promised Land is that it is arguably and fairly obviously two books interwoven as one. There is the shallow/cosmetic/manifest story which is essentially an often eye-wateringly detailed chronological account of Obama’s presidential campaign through to May 2011. And then there is what ethnographers might label ‘the deep story’ which is essentially the tapestry of narratives that Obama himself uses to explain how he felt and how he sought to interpret, understand and deal with the dilemmas he faced as president (i.e. the inevitable grating and grinding, pressures and demands). Superficial stories provide information, facts, figures, schedules and detail; deep stories provide a sense of mood and feeling and emotional insight ;the first works in straight lines and the second through tone and texture; the former in black and white and the latter in shades of grey. …
Footnotes
1
See, for example, Younge, G. ‘A Promised Land by Barack Obama review – an impressive but incomplete memoir’, The Guardian, 26 November, 2020. https://​www.​theguardian.​com/​books/​2020/​nov/​26/​a-promised-land-by-barack-obama-review-an-impressive-but-incomplete-memoir
 
2
Readers with an interest in “the messy business, worldly art and a brutal game” that is politics might like to read through the following seam of scholarship. Crick, B. In Defence of Politics.: (Penguin, 1962), Sharansky, N. The Case for Democracy, (Public Affairs, 2004), Stoker, G. Why Politics Matters, (Palgrave, 2006), Turner, K and Hogan, M. The Worldly Art of Politics, (Federation Press, 2006), Flinders, M. Defending Politics, (Oxford University Press, 2012), Gamble, A. Politics – Why It Matters, (Polity, 2019)
 
3
CBS News, “McCain and Obama crack jokes at charity event”, 16 October, 2018
 
4
Weber, M. “Politics as Vocation”, originally a speech at Munich University, 1918, published in 1919 by Duncker & Humblodt, Munich. From H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (Translated and edited), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, (Oxford University Press, 1946), 77–128.
 
5
Packer, G. ‘Obama’s Memoir Is an Exercise in Ironic Realism’, The Atlantic, 17 November, 2020. https://​www.​theatlantic.​com/​ideas/​archive/​2020/​11/​barack-obamas-tragic-realism/​617129/​
 
6
Stanley, T. “A Promised Land by Barack Obama: A Surprisingly Sad, passive-aggressive memoir”, The Telegraph, 17 November, 2020. https://​www.​telegraph.​co.​uk/​books/​what-to-read/​promised-land-barack-obama-review-surprisingly-sad-passive-aggressive/​
 
7
“Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910. Taken from http://​www.​worldfuturefund.​org/​Documents/​maninarena.​htm
 
8
See Flinders, M. 2020. “Why Feelings Trump Facts: Anti-politics, Citizenship and Emotion”, Emotions and Society, 2(1), 21–40
 
9
Ignatieff, M. 2013. Fire and Ashes, (Harvard University Press, 2013)
 
10
Hochschild, A. 2016. Strangers in Their Own Land, (New Press, 2013)
 
11
Tony Blair, for example, reveals in his memoirs that in the immediate aftermath of his landslide election in May 1997, the predominant emotion on becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was fear and foreboding. See Blair, T. A Journey, (Random House, 2010).
 
Metadata
Title
Barack Obama, A Promised Land (Penguin, 2020), Pp.768. ISBN: 978–0241491515
Superman inside the Barrel: The Deep Story of Obama’s Promised Land
Author
Matthew Flinders
Publication date
10-05-2021
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 2/2021
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-021-00571-1

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