Primary Colors (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Primary Colors, a satirical and highly publicized best- selling novel about the inner workings of a Clintonesque presidential campaign staff, is a highly engaging but emotionally disappointing literary work. Its popularity seems more a result of the author’s desire to remain anonymous than the novel’s Washington insider insights or even its timely publication in an election year. The curiosity about who authored this work, the subsequent unmasking of Newsweek journalist Joe Klein, and the flurry of media attention that the novel and Klein received are as fascinating as the story told within its pages.
The first-person exploration of day-to-day decisions, challenges, and calamities that confront a charismatic presidential candidate in the thick of a cut-throat primary campaign starts out with enthusiasm and good intentions, echoing the state of mind of its idealistic young hero Henry Burton. Full of keen observations and scandalous events, the novel allows readers to glimpse the inner thoughts and behavior of political campaign strategists. The pithy conversations of these Washington insiders is liberally peppered with “politi-speak” as their aphorisms become part of the story’s literary fabric. Their verbal shorthand includes terms such as “scorps” (scorpions) to refer to sleaze-hungry political reporters, “press muffins” to identify nubile young female campaign volunteers, and “pols” for the dreadful and dreaded...
(The entire section is 2132 words.)
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