God Is A Very Poor Novelist

Stanley and Madelyn Dunham with their grandson.

Imagine if your writing a novel about a young man whose parents separated when he was very young, leaving him under the care of his grandparents. Although these grandparents are very different from the boy they raise him with love. Over time, the boy rises in the world, become a distinguished political figure. As he hits middle age, his closest guardians die one by one, leaving him only with a grandmother. And then, two days before he’s about the be elected President of the United States, his grandmother dies.

What self-respecting novelist would write a book like that? It’s too cheap and maudlin, too coincidental, too obviously a ploy to jerk our tears and make us reflect on the profound and arbitrary unfairness of life, an affront to good tase and the rules of plausibility.

The death of Madeyln Dunham, Barack Obama’s grandmother, has just been announced. I’ve already pointed to Ta-Nehisi Coates very fine essay about Obama’s grandparents but if you haven’t read it, please do so please do so.

 

 

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