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Politics is stranger than fiction

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Politics is stranger than fiction

“Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld; Random House (432 pages; $28) In her new novel “Rodham,” Minneapolis-based fiction writer Curtis Sittenfeld offers up a tantalizing premise: What would the past couple of decades of American politics have looked like if a young Hillary Rodham had turned down Bill Clinton’s marriage proposal in the early 1970s?

It’s the kind of irresistible “what if?” scenario that’s been known to fuel many a freewheeling, late-night conversation among political junkies.

What if Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey had eked out a win over Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential race? That would have meant no Watergate, which historians generally agree left a lasting dent in Americans’ faith in political institutions.

“Rodham” gets particularly rollicking toward the end as it turns to a 2016 presidential election in which Hillary Rodham, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump all still play significant roles.

It’s not Sittenfeld’s first foray into political fiction: Her 2008 novel “American Wife” imagined the life story of a Laura Bush doppelganger, which among other tweaks transformed the Bushes of Texas into the Blackwells of Wisconsin.

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t,” Mark Twain famously wrote. Or as Philip Roth lamented […]

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