Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Making Politics Funny Lamar Alexander Makes It Palatable

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Making Politics Funny Lamar Alexander Makes It Palatable

Article excerpt

WE KNOW WHAT TO DO

By Lamar Alexander

202 pages, Morrow, $23

THE VERDICT is in, from seventh graders at the Steelville (Mo.) Middle School:

"Mr. Alexander is a real American guy," "another smooth-talking politician," "catches your attention like a 3-D movie," "loves this country and is very worried about the young generation."

In other words, they like Lamar Alexander as a person and author. They're just not sure if he's for real.

You know Lamar, the former governor of Tennessee who was George Bush's secretary of education. He's about the closest thing to being a good ole boy and a dark horse that the Republicans have in the 1996 presidential derby.

Now he's following the "Travels with Charley"/Studs Terkel/"Blue Highways" route to political fame and fortune with this book of interviews with people whose lives exemplify problems and potential in the nation today.

While I was teaching a writing workshop in Steelville earlier this autumn and had to visit some classes just once, assigning a book review seemed a good exercise. The students of Melissa Delcour proved to be acute critics.

The narrative kicks off with a neighborhood Independence Day picnic. "The writer is fusing boring and funny stuff together," Beverly Ransom pointed out about this first chapter. "Politics is boring but the writer is making it funny."

That's high praise from a seventh grader, and I think she's right. This is an entertaining book that does raise a few issues and offer a few answers, mainly self-reliance.

One of the best chapters, the second, focuses on Alexander's distant relatives in Cassville, Mo., Aaron and Misty Gates, who struggle to make ends meet and save to start a family.

Nichole Link liked the discussion "about how people mooch off of the government. It talks about Misty and Aaron and how they work two jobs each and their neighbors and former schoolmates are on welfare. …

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