There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bus book

Finished another book on the bus. If nothing else, I'm going to be better read as a result of my decision to take the bus to work.

"The People's Machine," by Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Mathews is an excellent look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and his new career in politics. Reading this richly detailed account of the campaigns won and lost by Schwarzenegger I was reminded of the "Making of the President" series of books by Theodore H. White. The book is really that good.

The book has enough biographical detail to explain Schwarzenegger's life before entering politics. (I loved that fact that one of Arnold's mentors in Austria tried to teach him English by having him read the articles in Playboy.) But the real wealth comes from the insider look at the political campaigns that launched his career and occupied his first years as governor.

If the book has any weakness it is that it feels incomplete. The book was finished before the governor's re-election but after the special election defeats of 2005. The epilogue's effort to quickly bridge the two events leaves the reader with the overall feeling that the book had been rushed into production for sale during the 2006 campaign season.

As a youth I remember sitting silently in the corner while adults sat around my mother's dining room table and drank Scotch and argued strategy in an Assembly race in the San Fernando Valley. Ever since, I've been fascinated with political campaigns. Mathews' book certainly satisfied my appetite.

Postscript: The Assembly campaign was successful and my mother was invited to take a job in the new assemblyman's Capitol office. My mother was gone for two weeks and then returned home. She turned the job down. "Too many squirrels in Capitol Park" was her only explanation.

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