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Newsnight Review: Friday, 16 January, 2009

Sarah McDermott | 16:15 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

Here's a look ahead to what's in store this evening on Review:

Ian Rankin, Oona King and Oliver Kamm have mined Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father, to find clues about what motivates the man who'll be Commander in Chief within days.

Written when he was 33, it details his attitude to race, drugs, and his constant struggle to find his place in the world. But it is his relationship with his father, whom he meets just once in his life, which influences him more than anything else.

If you've read it - tell us what you thought below.

Then its curtain up for a new talentshowtastic Oliver! starring Rowan Atkinson. It has defied the economic crisis to break all box office records, taking £15 million in advance sales. It's the third musical in which the principal parts are played by talent show winners -Jodie Prenger plays Nancy, and the three rotating Olivers are Lawrence Jeffcoate, Gwion Wyn Jones and Harry Stott.

Andrew O'Hagan's novel Be Near Me, set in his native Ayrshire, has been adapted for The National Theatre of Scotland in a co-venture with the Donmar in London. The script has been written by Ian McDiarmid who also stars as Father Anderton, a cerebral, (heavy) wine drinking Oxford educated, Anglo Scottish priest who comes to a parish in a run-down coastal town near Kilmarnock. He strikes up a friendship with a wild, 15 year old, pill-popping boy, with disastrous consequences. The play has opened in Kilmarnock, moves to London's Donmar Warehouse, then goes on tour across the UK.

Anne Hathaway has made her reputation with a series of light and entertaining films including The Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. But her new film Rachel Getting Married is a much tougher proposition. In this comic/tragedy she plays a recovering drug addict whose past actions have devastated her arty Connecticut family. The drama takes place around the wedding of her older sister played by Rosemary DeWitt, when Kym (Hathaway) arrives home after a nine month stint in rehab.

And we'll be paying a special Review tribute to John Mortimer - a sometime panellist on the programme.

Do join us at 11pm.


  • Comment number 1.


    Would it not be more illuminating to investigate what kind of mind is moved to write an autobiography at 33? Have a word with Oliver James.

  • Comment number 2.

    If one wants to construct a romantic fantasy about the influence on Obama's father, I suppose it would be easy to make such a link. However, to do so one would need to be not only an extremely lazy researcher but also posses an imagination bordering on dishonesty.

    Apart from the dream in New York, almost everything that Obama says about his father's in the book demonstrates his own distance and disdain for his father.

    The person who I believe has had the most influence on Obama is the man who hired him in New York for the job in Chicago.

    Obama was broke, "eating out tins" and desperately needed a job. This man, the clever people-engineer also play a role in getting Obama to Harvard and has guided him since in developing his social and political networks. His pseudonym in the book is Marty and some researchers have identified him as Jerry Kellman.

    Obama did not, by him own admission in the book, succeed in improving the standard of living for the communities among whom he worked in Chicago. His real job there was to use his black heritage to convince black people to join Kellman's, as he puts it "only game in town" scheme.

    The "Kellman game" brought lots of money to the university where most white people worked but little to the areas where black people lived and for whom it was originally intended help.

    I am sorry to burst the bubble of those who idealise Obama, a saint he is certainly not.

    In the white house I expect that he will remain connected to those same networks and serve the same interests - as is already evident in his choices of key appointments.

    As for "change", yes I believe there will be some, unlike Bush, people will now thank the president for taking the food off their plates and for sending their children to their deaths in many more wars to come.

  • Comment number 3.

    As someone who grew up without a mother, I know exactly what influence the absent parent has on your life, whether it be negative or positive. A parent, present or absent, is a key component in your life, and how much influence that parent has on your life varies from person to person.

    Many compensate for that missing element by going off the rails, while others strive instead to make something of themselves: to be independent, speak their mind and endeavour to put things right.

    The confidence he has inspired in the American public cannot be denied, and I for one think he can inspire the world. Give the guy a chance.

  • Comment number 4.

    His experience is a monumental or clossal combination of cultural and social complexities that would take only the mind of an esoteric philosopher to extricate.
    I believe the values -- honesty, fairness, straight talk and independent judgement – that her mother tried to inculcate in him play more part than the influence of his father.

  • Comment number 5.

    Unfortunately, the BCC have it all wrong. I have written a book on Obama, Obama: The Man Behind The Mask.

    Obama's real father was the communist Frank Marshall Davis. Obama's ode to his "father" was to his secret father, Frank.
    His life has been devoted to glorifying Frank.

    Obama's "Kenyan connection" is an imaginary construct that was concocted to protect Frank from embarrassment. Frank was a married man with a prominent wife.
    Obama learned the truth too late, as an adult in his 20's, to adopt his real identity.

    I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but if you go back to my blogs for October, 2008 you can read my extensive remarks during that period.

    Andy Martin

  • Comment number 6.

    Andy (5), I hope you won't be offended if I give it a miss...



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