cover image American Nomad: Restless Politics in a Secret Country

American Nomad: Restless Politics in a Secret Country

Steve Erickson. Henry Holt & Company, $25 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5155-1

""They told you it was a war for the soul of America,"" Erickson (Arc d'X) opens portentously, in an uneasy attempt to graft High Meaning on an entertaining narrative loosely centered on the 1995-96 presidential campaign. Hired by Rolling Stone to add his novelist's eye to their reportage, the author found himself running afoul of the famously mercurial Jann Wenner and was fired after the New Hampshire primary. Nevertheless, he decided to continue following the campaign--he made it to the Republican Convention but not the Democratic one--and thread his observations into a mix of analysis and memoir. While the hybrid lacks the personal depth that would make his book memorable, Erickson's reflection on politics is lively and thoughtful, as, for instance, when he charges both pro-choicers and pro-lifers with ""intellectual bankruptcy."" He freshly describes the seemingly over-exposed Bob Dole as a would-be ""Rememberer-in-Chief"" in a country that lacks a shared consensus about its past. And he astutely observes that Bill Clinton knows when to listen to polls and when to defy them, as in his decision to send troops to Bosnia. In the end, though, Erickson recognizes that in the 1996 election, more registered voters ""had not voted than voted,"" a statement many will find fittingly ominous. (May)