London Review of Books: When Comparing Prose Styles, George W. Bush is the new Tao Lin

George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points landed in stores last November to the requisite curiosity and instant relaying of anything relatively juicy. But Decision Points was never looked at as a book — even Michiko Kakutani, in The New York Times, barely addressed the prose styles of our former commander in chief. Perhaps a truth about the book lies within this neglect. Could the book be so devoid of style that its standing as a real book is null?

On the contrary, cries critic Eliot Weinberger, in The London Review of Books. His essay about Decision Points, entitled “‘Damn right,’ I said,” argues convincingly that this is a text that Michel Foucault would have gone gaga for. Weinbeger avoids condescending to W. and scoffing at his dubious status as a “novelist” — apart from a few swipes at his Yale frat-boy persona — and instead constructs a thorough examination of the book’s postmodern qualities.

Weisberger says Bush includes such devices as pastisch, absence of protagonist, interweaving of fact and fiction, removal of the “author” from the actual writing process — all standard criteria for inclusion in the postmodern canon.

But the most intriguing part of the review comes when Weisberger reveals his choice of a touchstone to explain the bone-dry prose the Bush uses in the memoir. 

“There are nearly 500 pages of this, reminiscent of the current po-mo poster boys, Tao Lin, with his anaesthetised declarative sentences,” the critic writes.

Tao Lin and George W. Bush, together in the canon at last! Such a statement could be disconcerting for writers — especially ones who have written flash fiction about President Bush getting stabbed to death — but naturally Tao has taken the reference in stride, posting a link to the site on his Twitter and his Tumblr.

Your move, W. We’d love to hear your take on Richard Yates.

nfreeman [at] | @nfreeman1234

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London Review of Books: When Comparing Prose Styles, George W. Bush is the new Tao Lin