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There was entertainment at the Republican Gala on Sunday night. The climax was a full marching band of bagpipers. They must have been hired for the week since one kept hearing them on the following days, and at all odd times, heard them even in my hotel room at four am for a few were marching in the streets of San Francisco, sounding through the night, giving off the barbaric evocation of the Scots, all valor, wrath, firmitude, and treachery - the wild complete treachery of the Scots finding its way into the sound of the pipes. They were a warning of the fever in the heart of the Wasp.
In the summer of 1964, Esquire sent celebrated writer Norman Mailer to San Francisco to cover the Republican National Convention, where ultra-conservative Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was expected to take the Presidential nomination. Acerbic, unrelenting, and as sweeping in scope as it is deep in examination, In the Red Light firmly establishes Mailer as the leading literary social critic of his time - and, perhaps, of any time.
In the Red Light was originally published in Esquire, November 1964.
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Eerie parallels with today's America
Although it's over 50 years old, Mailer's account of the 1964 Republican convention at which Barry Goldwater was selected as the candidate of a new, Western, and far-right movement cannot be heard today without finding numerous parallels with today's America. Like Trump's supporters, Goldwater's were overwhelmingly white, suspicious of the mainstream media, fearful of the rise of black power through the civil rights movement, and determined to reverse immigration trends, particularly from Latin America. Mailer was no fan of Lyndon Johnson, either, and he was able to see how Goldwater's extremism could appeal to people who were fed up with what they saw as an American becoming synthetic, technophilic, liberal, and soulless. On the other hand, he also saw how easily someone like Goldwater could transform into a demagogue who would be calling for journalists to be locked up and massive forces to invade a small and mostly harmless island like Cuba merely for what it represented as a symbolic threat. Caustically funny, sometimes pompous, but always interesting. Minute for minute, one of the most satisfying selections in the last year.