Conventional Wisdom
June 26, 2008 9:13 PM   Subscribe

I've got Denver and Minneapolis on my mind, and it seems like going to a political convention is a rite of passage for any serious nonfiction writer in this country. So what are the best pieces of writing (or film or radio) about a nominating convention?
posted by jtajta to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's is archetypal.
posted by rhizome at 9:21 PM on June 26, 2008

Hunter Thompson's account of the ’72 Democratic convention (Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72).
posted by ericb at 9:30 PM on June 26, 2008

Or, what rhizome said!
posted by ericb at 9:31 PM on June 26, 2008

Norman Mailer's Miami and the Siege of Chicago.
posted by Bromius at 10:58 PM on June 26, 2008

Timothy Crouse's The Boys on the Bus covers the intersection of press and candidates during the '72 campaign.
posted by stefanie at 11:13 PM on June 26, 2008

Medium Cool!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 PM on June 26, 2008

Dave Barry covers the conventions from time to time, and for my money he's a hell of a lot more fun to read than most of the other guys.

Fun side note:

Barry's always been one of my writing idols, something my friends and family are quite cognizant of.

I guess it was about 5 years back or so when the Republican National Convention came to NYC. One of my good friends from college had access to media passes via the think-tank she worked for down in the Philly area, so she came up for a visit. I gave her a place to stay, she got me onto the convention floor to check it out, and into a few of the after-venues for free drinks and such. Good trade.

We were on the convention floor one evening and I forget who it was that was talking, but suddenly a whole row of the audience in the section right next to us started ripping off their formal costumes to reveal their protestor apparel underneath, and began screaming and pulling signs out. People swarmed them, it was pretty awesome, and after about 40 Secret Service guys had dragged every last one of them out, they posted an agent at both ends of that empty row, whilst checking it for leftovers.

Anyway, that's not what this side story is about. Later that night we're at some bar where Karl Rove is due to speak. Just as he gets started, I'm standing there, next to the table that my friend and some of her co-workers are at, when my friend reaches up and grabs my arm, tugging furiously. "THAT'S DAVE BARRY," she says in her loudest possible whisper.

I turn and look at the TV screen above the bar behind me, but its a football game. I turn and look back at her like "WTF" and she says "RIGHT NEXT TO YOU." I turn around again and there, standing shoulder to shoulder with me, is none other than Dave himself. I stood there not hearing a word Rove said, instead facing forward but watching Dave's scribbling on his notepad. I managed not to pee myself, and when Rove FINALLY finished his incessant babbling, I immediately introduced myself to Dave as his biggest fan.

He sat down and had a few beers with us, and was generally awesome. We took pictures with him but my friend's dolt of a co-worker left his camera in a cab. The next day he wrote about us in his daily column-recap. One of my favorite nights in NYC.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:52 AM on June 27, 2008

Convention, by Richard Reeves about the 1976 convention. From an amazon comment (which I agree with):

This is one of my favorite political books of all time. Basically, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, fifty or so delegates agreed to keep in-depth journals that would detail the day-to-day events at New York's Madison Square Garden. Reeves then used these journals to write this informative, at times very humorous and even poignant, book about the plots and sub-plots that accompanied the 1976 nomination of Jimmy Carter.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:58 AM on June 27, 2008

About the 1976 Democratic convention
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:59 AM on June 27, 2008

Nthing the Hunter S. Thompson book.

I also liked Leap Year and American Nomad by Steve Erickson, though it does seem like he's trying to channel Thompson at points.
posted by drezdn at 7:31 AM on June 27, 2008

Theodore White wrote a series of books covering four presidential elections, called "The Making of the President". The elections covered are: 1960 (Kennedy-Nixon); 1964 (Johnson-Goldwater); 1968 (Nixon-Humphrey); and 1972 (Nixon-McGovern). These were huge best-sellers at the time, but you don't hear much about them anymore, so may be somewhat dated perspectives.

These are books I've always meant to read. Your question prompted me to look these up. So maybe I'll get around to it. 1960 might be interesting due to many current comparisons between Kennedy and Obama. Also, I think 1968 would be an interesting one just because '68 was such a turbulent year.
posted by marsha56 at 5:21 PM on June 27, 2008

If you don't mind fiction, The Manchurian Candidate.
posted by lukemeister at 8:04 PM on June 27, 2008

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