Today marks a full 28 days since I began the Herculean task of reading Richard Ben Cramer’s encyclopedia sized tome about the 1988 presidential election, “What It Takes.“
Here’s a quick primer, if, for some reason, you haven’t been following my ongoing effort to tackle this literary monolith. The book is 1,051 pages long and is broken up into 130 chapters.
So, after a month, where do I stand?
I closed the book last night after completing chapter 87. That means I’ve read 770 pages in a month, a full 73% of the book.
I put a huge dent into the book yesterday, thanks to the good folks at UPS. On Monday, I got home to find one of those “We missed you” stickers on my buildings front door. It said they’d try to make the delivery again Tuesday between 2-5 or after 5. And so, I was forced to wait at home for the delivery. And so I read for most of the day. Finally, at about 6:30, my cabin fever set in and I decided to chance it and go run a quick errand. Of course, when I got downstairs, there was the package. Apparently, my super signed for it and the UPS guy just left it sitting on the mailboxes for me, without ever ringing my bell. So, I had been trapped inside for hours for no real reason. At first I was angry, then I realized, I don’t really like going outside. I probably would have just sat inside anyway. I guess I just like knowing I have the freedom to leave if I want to.
As far as the book goes, Gary Hart is out after having an alleged affair which may not have actually included any sex. Joe Biden is out after getting caught in a plagiarism scandal that wasn’t really plagiarism. And Dick Gephardt’s numbers are bottoming out because people think he leaked the dirt about Biden, even though he didn’t. Meanwhile, George Bush continues to come off as a genial buffoon who is far more concerned with advancing in his career than he is in serving the public good. During his career, he took multiple jobs that he knew would involve no actual work or responsibility, simply because they moved him one step closer to the Presidency. Meanwhile, Michael Dukakis comes off as a semi-clueless campaigner who undercuts his entire staff and turns his back on friends, all in service of his ultimate goal. To me, it seems like Richard Ben Cramer paints them as the two least likable candidates. Of course, they’re the one’s we’ll be stuck with as the book reaches its nadir.
Anyway, I originally said I was hoping to finish this book in five months. Clearly, I underestimated myself. I now think it can be done in the next two weeks or so. If you would care to place a bet for yourself, do it in the comments section.