In this nuanced and complex portrait of Barack Obama, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Remnick offers a thorough, intricate, and riveting account of the unique experiences that shaped our nation’s first African American president.
Through extensive on-the-record interviews with friends and teachers, mentors and disparagers, family members and Obama himself, Remnick explores the elite institutions that first exposed Obama to social tensions, and the intellectual currents that contributed to his identity. Using America’s racial history as a backdrop for Obama’s own story, Remnick further reveals how an initially rootless and confused young man built on the experiences of an earlier generation of black leaders to become one of the central figures of our time.
Masterfully written and eminently readable, The Bridge is destined to be a lasting and illuminating work for years to come, by a writer with an unparalleled gift for revealing the historical significance of our present moment.
Remnick (Lenin's Tomb), editor of the New Yorker, offers a detailed but lusterless account of Barack Obama's historic ascent. As a piece of "biographical journalism," the book succeeds ably enough and offers familiar commentary on Obama's cosmopolitan childhood with strains of isolation and abandonment straight out of David Copperfield-rootless, fatherless, with a loving but na ve and absent mother, he suffered racial taunts and humiliations at the hands of his schoolmates. We read how Obama's famous composure was hard-won, how he constructed his personality in opposition to his father's grandiose self-regard, his transformation from "Barry" to "Barack," the drug use, the burgeoning racial and political consciousness-rehashing events that the subject himself has covered in his frank memoirs. But for the scope (and size) of the book, Remnick's interest is ultimately limited to a study of Obama's relationship with blackness, and Obama as the student and fulfillment of the civil rights movement-it's a rich vein but impersonal, and in the author's handling, slightly repetitive. Remnick is in deeply respectful court scribe mode, but he does shine in his treatment of more peripheral characters such as Jesse Jackson and Hillary Clinton, both of whom emerge as figures of Shakespearian psychological complexity. A well-researched biography that pulls many trends of Obama-ology under its umbrella but stints on fresh interpretations.