Friday, November 7, 2008

RIP and Oh Happy Day!!

Chicago has felt lately like the center of the universe. While many of us continue to pay tribute to the late great Studs Terkel, our city on the lake was the site of a spectacular celebration of democracy at its finest. We cried and cheered and danced and cried some more with astonishment, relief, and pride as Barack Obama came before us as the first African American president-elect, and the leader that will guide us out of the nightmare of the past eight years. I felt liberated, as though a hood had been lifted from my head and face. As though I'd been released from a cramped cell and could stand up straight and take a deep breath for the first time since 2000. We can once again try to live up to our ideals. This is transformation, with millions of new voters, with millions of voices raised to reclaim our beloved country, to reassert decency and justice. I'm so grateful to everyone who worked so hard on behalf of Barack Obama, family and friends included. Thank you, thank you.

And in the midst of jubilation, life, and death, go on. On the literary front, we mourn the loss of another great book advocate, another inspired reader and a supremely gifted critical writer, John Leonard. A man Studs much admired, and vice versa. John Leonard contributed mightily to our culture. He leaves an empty space, and one wonders if any one critic can command the attention he did in this time of pixels and pieces. Quick takes and endangered newspapers.

But then, I think of Obama and know that we'll figure things out. And that we'll keep writing and reading, learning and thinking.

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