Election by Tom Perrotta
published 1998 chapter 3
[Tracy Flick is staging a campaign to become the president of her high school]
High school students are a notoriously tough crowd…Tracy understood this. Knowing she was a slightly ridiculous, slightly scandalous personage in the eyes of her peers, she decided to neutralize potential hecklers by emphasizing rather than soft-pedalling those aspects of her reputation. Sheathed in a startlingly short, body-hugging red dress… she delivered an unapologetic self-appraisal that was as accurate as it was provocative.
“I know you like Paul better than you like me,” she said in summation, “and I don’t really blame you. He’s a nice sweet guy and I’m a – well, I’m not nice and sweet, let’s just leave it at that. But when it comes to the wire, who do you want fighting for the the students of Winwood High? Do you want Mr Nice Guy?” She put her hands on her hips and smiled knowingly at the audience. “Or do you want me?”
observations: The USA is electing its president today, so what better book to choose to illustrate than Tom Perrotta’s brilliant satire on both elections AND high schools, quite the double whammy.
The red of Tracy Flick’s dress keeps turning up throughout the book – it is described as blood-red, and near the end the key teacher in the book, Mr M, sees her like this:
I saw the dress before I saw her face. The red of it jolted me like an electric shock. I reached up to straighten my tie, and she turned around in the same instant, smiling in a puzzled sort of way, as if a stranger had spoken her name.
It’s a terrific book, very funny and readable but also thought-provoking, and with a nice line in reversed expectations. Your sympathies among the main parties keep changing throughout the book. Tracy should be the villain, but is she? And does anyone win in the end?
There is a funny line in the book where a betrayed wife says pointedly to her ex:
“I had you pegged for a Clinton man.”Links up with: A beautiful red dress featured in this entry, and Proust has one here. Misery at high school in this book.
“Me?” he said. “What gave you that idea?”
If you look for pictures of red dresses on the internet, you come across hundreds of results for a fashion show held in 2011 in aid of the campaigning charity Heart Truth, trying to inspire women to take action to protect their heart health. This is the actress Katrina Bowden at the show. The photo is a work of an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, taken as part of official duties and so, as a work of the US federal government, is in the public domain. (Not words we’ve ever typed before on the blog, and not the photo you’d be expecting to find it under.)