a very enjoyable review of George W Bush's memoir, 'Decision Points', for London Review of Books (an erudite demolition job of the Bush autobiography is surely one of the reasons LRB exists). Weinberger claims the memoir can be interpreted as the ultimate postmodern text, regardless of whether this was the intention of the 'author(s)'.
Foucault, pioneer of postmodernist criticism, argued that such concepts as 'sincerity', 'authenticity' and a coherent, singular 'narrative voice' are redundant. Weinberger finds that, sure enough, all these are gloriously, unashamedly absent from the reflections of George W Bush (if indeed he is the 'author', or if there is any 'author' at all).
'In the late 1960s, George Bush Jr was at Yale, branding the asses of pledges to the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity with a hot coathanger. Michel Foucault was at the Societé française de philosophie, considering the question, ‘What is an author?’
The two, needless to say, never met. Foucault may have visited Texas on one of his lecture tours, but Junior, as far as it is known, never took his S&M revelry beyond the Ivy League – novelists will have to invent a chance encounter in a basement club in Austin. Moreover, Junior’s general ignorance of all things, except for professional sports, naturally extended to the nation known as France. On his first trip to Paris in 2002, Junior, now president of the United States, stood beside Jacques Chirac at a press conference and said: ‘He’s always saying that the food here is fantastic and I’m going to give him a chance to show me tonight.’
Foucault found his theories embodied, sometimes unconvincingly, in writers such as Proust or Flaubert. He died in 1984, while Junior was still an ageing frat boy, and didn’t live to see this far more applicable text. For the questions that he, even then, declared hopelessly obsolete are the very ones that should not be asked about Decision Points ‘by’ George W. Bush (or by ‘George W. Bush’): ‘Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse?’'
I especially liked this critique of the Bush 'literary style', later in the review:
'The names of hundreds of other people are mentioned, almost always in praise – it is, in its way, the world’s longest prize acceptance speech – but none of them, outside of the Bush family, has any life as a character. Each new person is introduced with a single sentence, noting one or more of the following: 1) Texan origins; 2) college athletic achievements; 3) military service; 4) deep religious faith. The sentence ends with three personal characteristics: ‘honest, ethical and forthright’; ‘a brilliant mind, disarming modesty and a buoyant spirit’; ‘a statesman, a savvy lawyer and a magnet for talented people’; ‘smart, thoughtful, energetic’ (that’s Condi); ‘knowledgeable, articulate and confident’ (that’s Rummy); ‘a wise, principled, humane man’ (Clarence Thomas); and so on. Then the person does whatever Bush tells him to do.'