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FP: What are your thoughts on Obama?
Klavan: You know, people in the arts – people like me – have been making a big fuss about how conservatives should pay more attention to the culture because culture creates and foreshadows politics, not the other way around. Well, to my mind, Barack Obama is a perfect example of what we’re saying. He’s a pure cultural construct. He has no ideas of his own, only the image of America given to him by the art and media and academic cultures: America, to paraphrase Shelby Steele, as a sin needing to be redeemed. So his intellectual life was created by the culture. But also, he became expert in allowing people to project their yearnings for redemption and renewal onto him, their imaginations, which are likewise shaped by culture. If our culture hadn’t created Obama’s image before he arrived in person, the people would not have looked at this inexperienced, clueless and I suspect narcissistically empty man and seen the second coming.
FP: We see some dark times ahead with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran etc. planning an attack on Israel. What are your thoughts on what Israel faces and how it must best defend itself?
Klavan: In all honesty, my heart misgives me. Our elites and culture-makers have managed to convince even American Jews themselves that their virtue lies in condemning the only free nation in a desert of oppression, that to criticize a religion – Islam – currently cancerous with violence and hatred is some sort of phobia, that to describe what is right in front of their eyes is some kind of sin. Whenever reality is outlawed – whether by force of arms or cultural decree – the Jews are in danger. And should the disaster come, the very collaborators who let it happen – all the gibbering Jimmy Carters who set it loose – will suddenly look at the millions of Jewish dead and say, “How awful, but it wasn’t our fault. That wasn’t what we intended at all.” I haven’t given up hope – Israel is a strong nation and America may be only one election away from giving her its full support again – but it’s currently a case where the moral world has been turned on its head, and we need to turn it back before it’s too late.
FP: What do you like watching on television? What do you read for news and political commentary?
Klavan: This is a golden age of fiction television, as I’ve said again and again. The proliferation of channels, and the mistreatment of movie screenwriters that has sent them looking for work on the small screen have combined to give us shows that are almost as good as the novels of old. Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men… this is great, deep, rich stuff. Even the network shows – Blue Bloods is a favorite – are better written than most movies.
For commentary – I’m addicted to commentary – Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Krauthammer, Mark Steyn… I mean, when I compare these guys to the people on the Left, the Krugmans and Dowds and Frank Riches, I’m almost embarrassed for the opposition. We have thinkers and writers and polemicists, they have name-callers and tantrum-throwers and liars. We really need our columnists to tie one hand behind their backs to make the argument fair.
FP: You have a black belt in Karate. Share with us how you became interested in Karate, who trained you and how you ended up getting your black belt. Tell us also what Karate has brought into your life. Also, have you ever had to use Karate on the street or in a bar fight or whatnot? And if, let’s say, jihadists tried to harm you in hand-to-hand combat, would you stand a good chance of fighting them off?
Klavan: Ha! I used to get into a lot of fights as a school kid – an absurd number of fights – but that was a long time ago and I haven’t lifted a hand in anger in thirty years. Oh, now that you’ve asked me the question, all these incidents come to mind: I chased off some creeps who were mugging a drunk once and I’ve stood between some very large, angry fellows and played the peacemaker. And yes, I do have a black belt in kenpo karate and I’ve done enough sparring to feel I could still duke it out if I had to. I did karate for a while many years ago, and then when my son took it up, I joined him and earned my black belt and then stopped because I was getting injured too much. But really, I’m a writer, not a fighter. I know all of us guys romanticize violence, and I’m no exception, but the truth is, grown-ups shouldn’t hit people if they can help it at all. They really shouldn’t. Read a book instead.
FP: Can you tease us a bit about what you character confronts and what some of the themes are? Wet our appetite a bit as we head to the bookstores or to amazon.com to buy this thriller.
Klavan: Well, let me put it this way. When I was recording the audiobook of The Identity Man, I had a chance to get a more objective view of it and, I tell you the truth, I blushed to hear how politically incorrect the book was. My goal really from the start of my career has been to write bullet-fast thrillers that are nonetheless novels about the human condition and our times. This is a story about race, racial politics, identity and redemption, a book that explores what I believe to be the great American question: how free are we to redefine ourselves, how much of our identity is ours to invent? If you look at some great American stories you can see how this idea changes over time. In The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow there’s a bold, almost strident belief in American reinvention. Then look at The Godfather some years later and reinvention has become a tragic impossibility. Today we have Mad Men, in which reinvention is looked on as a crime, an ad man’s scam. The concept in The Identity Man is different than all of these and I think it’s worth exploring.
FP: Have you accomplished a lot with your life that you have wanted to? Do you feel that you have invented your own identity and been able to fulfill much of what you wanted? What dreams and goals do you still have?
Klavan: I feel ridiculously blessed. When I look back to where I started – so unhappy, so twisted and depressed as a young man – and I see myself today, joyful and productive, doing the work I love, living with the woman I’ve loved for 30 years, I’m genuinely filled with gratitude – for the people who’ve helped me and the God who dispatched them to my rescue when hope seemed lost. That said, I feel I have a couple of big statements still to make, a couple of big stories still to tell — I feel I’m on the cusp of my best work — and I feel the pressure of time very deeply, the fear I won’t get it all down on the page before the Big Barman calls “Time.” But there’s no help for that. It’s just the suspense of living. All I can do is keep going forward, God leading, me singing my song.
FP: Andrew Klavan, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
As the editor of Frontpagemag.com, I encourage all of our readers to buy Andrew Klavan’s new thriller immediately by clicking here. It will be one of the best decisions you made in 2010!
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