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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/30/2004 Archived Entry: "Book Review: My Life"

My Life
By Bill Clinton
Publisher: Knopf

Review by Kitty Johnson

I Hear America Singing: A Review of My Life by Bill Clinton.

What, when drunk, one sees in other presidents of the United States, one sees in Bill Clinton sober.

What a great quote! I just made it up! (With a little help from Kenneth Tynan.) Oh, how I miss our Bill Clinton, the Arkansas minotaur! But now I have his Life in my lap again, and, well, it's just such a relief. Remember what a terrific president Bill made, smarter than anyone who was more optimistic, and more optimistic than anyone who was smarter? Bill knew us the way a great lover does (unlike the swinish Childe Bush who goes into a full Pet-the-Goat trance when faced with the raw desires of his country.)

And here in 2004, it is useful to notice how Bill, in his Bill-ness, reminds us of the three great issues of every American election: race, money, and Elvis in general.

A) Race.

Curious how the Other Brother seems to unreservedly thirst for wild, cheap food and wild, sweet sex and yet is this not also the commonly held view of Bill Clinton!? This should be no surprise, since Bill comes from one of the hotter, more jungly parts of the world, a world made of spooky moonshine stills and pork-flavored romance. . . hey, wait a minute.

That's me! I mean, that's us! I mean, that's, that's . . . us'ns! And that's America. (see B).

B) Money (see C).

C) Elvis in General.

After Elvis clawed his way to the top, you know what did he do with the money? He gave everybody a Cadillac! Yes, Cadillac socialism! How sweet success is when it's shared by everyone. It's nice, now that Childe Bush is busy dismantling America, to remember how Bill urged us to have it all. Spiritual Cadillacs all around!

Besides, Bill also exhibits all the exquisite Dixie checks-and-balances of Elvis. Gospel and funk, black and white, Apollo and Dionysius. Bill balances his untamed hick mom with Hillary's rectitude, and then he matches Hillary's steel with Monica's humidity.

In a book which is nothing but a 900-page Elvis movie, my favorite loop is the one on page 584. Hot dog! The archetypal brute hillbilly event, Mother's funeral, has just occurred, and not only is it Elvis's birthday (January 8) but Barbra Streisand shows up too! Now, after a quick guzzle of the unlimited funeral meats at the Little Rock Sizzlin Steakhouse, it's time to rush back to the big house where Bill's still President of the United States. It's the unironic hillbilly dream par excellence.

So, actually, it doesn't matter if all those murmuring televised Calibans get Bill or not; their rancor is evidence of his power as a fertility symbol of the imagination (a positive dream rabbit, as P.G. Wodehouse says in another context.) He is our Comeback Kid, like Jesus, like Osiris; I mean, really, is there anything Bill can't serve as metaphor? (When Bill had his recent heart attack, the papers reported that hundreds turned up at hospitals wanting their own hearts monitored. Do you see the Shakespearean vehemence of these metaphorical gestures?)

Bill is large; he contains multitudes. Hey, remember that Elvis song 'If I Can Dream' with its birds flying higher and its lights burning brighter? Oh, yeah, W. Bush makes us sweat in our sleep, but, unlike Bill, he has never bred a dream, and a dream is what America should be.

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