From the Corner of the Oval was a bad-TV hate-read for me. Enjoyable, but a little despicable. When we meet Wesleyan alum Beck Dorey-Stein, she is an un- or underemployed twentysomething, giving life a go in DC. She happens on a White House job after sending in an application with a résumé, but no cover letter. "My résumé speaks for itself." Clearly that is so because she got a second interview after blowing off the first one because of some bs at her job at Lululemon. Once onboard Air Force One, where she flies around the world as a stenographer in the Obama administration, she drinks a lot and makes repeated terrible romantic choices. I am long past that phase of my life, so I found the alcohol-fueled romantic blunders annoying and/or painful. She references her good fortune and luckiness throughout the book, and I'm like WHAT ABOUT YOUR PRIVILEGE, GIRLFRIEND?
Back to annoying and/or painful: reading about the Obama administration while living the Trump administration. Dorey-Stein isn't a politico, but she's human, so had feelings about her POTUS and the POTUS who came after. She reveals that Obama signs "Dream big dreams" when kids ask him for an autograph. Sigh. Trump probably writes, "Try to be like me, but you'll never be as great as I am." If he signs autographs for kids at all. I bet he sells them.
A few tidbits from my reading, the first for all the librarians and others who cluck that kids are ignorant of stranger danger on the internet,
"I haven't trusted the Internet since the sixth grade, when I was talking to Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys on AOL Instant Messenger and then found out it was some nine-year-old girl who only confessed her true identity after her mom threatened to cancel her birthday party."
She pulls out some good images--and some weird ones, like when she writes "Secret Service agents manning the door watch with disdain as we squeeze into the room and feast our eyes on the leaders like eager piglets onto a beleaguered sow at lunchtime." First of all "staffing" not "manning" please. But the reporters and press as suckling babies? At that moment there aren't even politicians in the room; they're setting up for later. This isn't the only time Dorey-Stein is carried away by her own prose. See also, "The next night, I step into a black dress and zip up my angst." I mean, that's cute, but I guess I'm too old to appreciate it or relate.
Still, she brought me to tears with her account of Obama signing Amazing Grace at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
"That's our president," she writes. Can you imagine Trump eulogizing anyone with that kind of generosity and power? Having feelings? Being warm? There is much to criticize about Obama, but for the love of dog, he was human and capable of thinking of others. I might be crying again now as I think of the two men. Dorey-Stein ends the paragraph, "And grace will lead us home." Exhale.
Dorey-Stein has an ax to grind against women senior staffers, who call themselves the Vagiants. There's one Vagiant Dorey-Stein hates/is hated by, which could be the reason she goes out of her way to call the Vagiants out. I mean, call them out for equating sex and gender, or for shit they've done other than wearing annoying jewelry and snubbing a kid who didn't earn her place in the crew. I mean, clearly this one lady isn't nice, and treating labor well is important, but Dorey-Stein's criticism seems outsized, based on what she reports anyway. Given that she's writing a less-than-entirely-discreet (tell a lot) memoir of the Obama White House, I'm not sure she's hiding incidents to protect the guilty.
She nails the election day-after feeling, though, "I sit in the café car and feel alienated, like I'm surrounded by Death Eaters." That is exactly how America is right now! Dorey-Stein stays on a bit into the Trump administration, and is told by the deputy communications director that stenography and transcripts are no longer needed. Eventually they decide they do, but only some of the time.
Ugh, can you imagine Dorey-Stein's successors' White House memoirs? And will you hate read them with me?