Literary Up: Moore Thought

The magnificent Michael Moore visited Hartford Friday. I couldn’t go (there’s coverage in the Hartford Courant, if you’re curious, here), but the stars otherwise seemed properly aligned for a top-notch event. The sponsor was Hartford’s Mark Twain House, whose support for contemporary political satirists befits the legacy of its prime resident Samuel Clemens. The venue was a big auditorium at the University of Connecticut. Most importantly, Moore had put aside his distaste for Connecticut (based on policies and proclamations of former Senator Joe Lieberman) and was visiting for the first time in a while.

Instead of the high-energy rally buzz of a Moore live show, I’ve been reading his new book Here Comes Trouble. It’s his most reflective, most vulnerable, most heartwarming book, a big switch from his usual manuals on how and why to get mad at the government. Here Comes Trouble is a sensitive memoir about how Moore was first inspired to rouse rabble. Through understated anecdotes marking small yet significant shifts in his consciousness, we see a radical get radicalized. Moore explores the differing cultures (or lack thereof) in his Michigan neighborhood. He recalls, with admiration, the first homosexual person he remembers. As a seminary student, he gets in trouble for asking too many questions. By the time he reaches adulthood, he has entrenched values, and the stories become about him maintaining them. But even though the book starts with his adventures while winning an Academy Award, and notes his extraordinary success, this is not a rags-to-riches or how-I-got-famous tale. It’s about how Moore stayed grounded, didn’t forget his roots, and still fights for the rights of the unwell-off.

I’ve found Michael Moore’s other books to be exhausting, studded with bumper sticker catchphrases and propulsive jokes. This one is more in a Garrison Keillor or Sherwood Anderson mode, about the complications and revelations of everyday life in overlooked places.