On my US book tour for ‘A Long Way Down’ a couple of years ago, I gave a radio interview on a temporary stage outside a baseball stadium in Chicago. Afterwards, a remarkably beautiful and very charming young woman on her way to the game asked me to sign a copy of Fever Pitch, and though all my readers are beautiful in their own way, she was particularly striking – not least because I have signed very few copies of that particular book for attractive young American women. When I got home, our nanny told me that I’d met the ex-girlfriend of a friend of hers somewhere. I started to explain that authors met scores, hundreds, millions of people on a book tour, and that I was unlikely to be able to remember her friend’s former friend. “It was at a baseball stadium in Chicago, apparently,” Helen said. I told her with studied indifference that this did seem to ring a bell somewhere deep within . A few weeks ago, Helen passed on a copy of the young woman’s first book, called ‘Why You’re Wrong About The Right’. (There was a photocopied picture of me and the author tucked into the dust jacket, and a little note.) Her name is S. E. Cupp, and she’s co-written the book with Brett Joshpe. A beautiful and charming right-wing sports fanatic! How many of those does one meet during the course of a lifetime?
I haven’t looked at the book yet. It’s a great title, I think: most right-wing American political books have titles like “Why Liberals Are Stupid And Should Be Hung For Treason”, and as a consequence tend to get ignored in bookstores, which, let’s face it, are usually stuffed full of treacherous liberals. Aiming at Democrats is smart, and anyway helps create a comforting fantasy: maybe we are all wrong about the right. Maybe they’re as tolerant and as free-thinking, as concerned about the poor and the environment as the rest of us! Maybe it doesn’t matter who wins the US Presidential election! The world will be a better place either way!
I thought about S.E. Cupp’s book a couple of times recently. The first time was when I was reading the Guardian letters page last week: readers from both Britain and the US were responding to a piece in which Jonathan Freedland suggested – relatively uncontroversially, one would have thought – that the rest of the world would be disappointed were John McCain to become the next president. “Our blood, sweat and tears were not shed to have weaklings tell us how to save the world (by continuously selling out millions of “other people” to totalitarian monsters),” said a Californian correspondent. “Should Jonathan visit, he had better drink with professors or like types at home or in gay bars, but had better stay out of real bars in Sacramento.” Rather brilliantly, that last sentence manages to weave together a rabid anti-intellectualism, homophobia and threats of violence, all prompted by someone in another country with the temerity to express an opinion. And then earlier this week, I found myself on the LA Times website, reading the many heartfelt and heartbroken tributes to the writer David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide a few days ago; depressingly, even there, someone of Ms Cupp’s political persuasion had managed to say something outrageously offensive.
What I think about the right now, before opening the book, is that it’s a place where you can find a lot of dangerous, unreflective, unattractive bigots. S E Cupp would be doing well to get me to change my mind.