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The Atlantic on Vince Cunningham’s Latest

Obama, the protagonist

By Gal Beckerman

Vinson Cunningham’s new novel, Great Expectations, is a thinly veiled fictional account of his own experience as a young man working on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Obama isn’t mentioned once in the book, but in every way, the fount of charisma described as “the senator” or “the candidate” is him. And through the character of David Hammond, a college dropout who almost by accident finds himself in a fundraising job for the nascent campaign, Cunningham is able to give readers a close-up look at Obama’s stratospheric rise. Mostly, as Danielle Amir Jackson writes in an essay this week, that is the story of how one man was imbued by his supporters with messiah-like qualities, creating an unsustainable cult of personality around him.

The book takes place at a time, Jackson writes, “when many thought Obama had an answer for every American ailment.” Cunningham got a front-row seat to all of the projected hopes, and to the disillusionment in the years that followed. It turned out that Obama’s instincts were actually moderate ones, and that, in any case, America’s political system was not built for radical change—not through the force of one man’s efforts. Cunningham’s book put me in mind of another account of this vertiginous launch and return to Earth: Obama’s own presidential memoir, A Promised Land. See the full review at The Atlantic’s The Books Briefing.

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