This may come as a blow, but it would seem that Barack "too cool to be President" Obama thinks pretty highly of himself, or at least he did in his early twenties, as chronicled with cringe-worthy closeness in David Maraniss' new biography of the President, now excerpted on the Vanity Fair website. Specifically, the future POTUS wrote some seriously lame love letters in the days before Michelle came along, when even he has admitted he was "too serious for my own good."
Thanks to a couple of obliging ex-girlfriends, we now have hard evidence, consisting of diary entries and love letters chronicling a pretentious courtship that revolved around heady discussions of "choice:" in one missive Obama defined it as "a convenient shorthand for the way my past resolves itself. Not just my past, but the past of my ancestors, the planet, the universe." Ouch.
He also shared his exhaustive thoughts on T.S. Eliot to then-girlfriend Alex McNear. Read this only if you're prepared to face the verbose, progressive-and-high-minded-yet-shockingly inconsiderate (and likely ill-groomed) boyfriend that haunts the most nightmarish corners of your undergraduate memories:
"I haven't read 'The Waste Land' for a year, and I never did bother to check all the footnotes. But I will hazard these statements – Eliot contains the same ecstatic vision which runs from Münzer to Yeats. However, he retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism — Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter — life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?"
If Obama's thoughts on "fertility and death" aren't sufficiently erotic, Genevieve Cook, another of his exes, released old diary entries recalling how "on Sundays Obama would lounge around, drinking coffee and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, bare-chested, wearing a blue and white sarong."
No word yet on whether or not Obama has retained the crossword-and-sarong routine during his residency in the White House, but either way the entire piece is worth a read, if vaguely unsettling.
Image by Dave Herr.