Wallace’s The Man Is as Trenchant as Today’s News

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The title character of The Man is a U.S. Senator horrified along with the rest of the nation to realize he has become American’s first black president.

Douglass Dilman has never made waves politically; he’s never felt secure enough to attempt to do so. He’s not even been able to get up courage to propose to the woman he’s loved for five years.

His party’s elite think Dilman will fall into line as US President as he did as Senate President, but just in case, they draft a bill that prohibits the executive from firing a Cabinet member without the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

Dilman lets the bill become law without his signature; it’s his first, tiny act of personal political responsibility, and one that will lead to his impeachment.

Irving Wallace didn’t imagine Dilman as an elected black president, but that’s one of the few details of the story that don’t read like news from the post-LBJ years: Tussles between the US and Russia over fledgling African democracies, threats of presidential impeachment, blacks’ resentment of a black president who doesn’t support them over whites.

Everything Wallace gets right in the novel, points out everything that’s still wrong in America.

And that’s why, beyond its marvelously well-told story, The Man is worth reading once more.

The Man
By Irving Wallace
Simon and Schuster, 1964
766 pages
1964 bestseller #5
My grade: A-

Photo credit: White House, Washington, DC, November 2006 by t http://www.sxc.hu/photo/658257

© 2014 Linda Gorton Araagoni

Published by

Linda Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. My program for turning teens and adults into competent writers is just eight sentences, 34 words.

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