Looks like it's time to get the banned back together
We'll get to that in due time, but first ...
... as I read the accounts this week of the presidential debate between incumbent Donald Trump and challenger Chris Wallace — featuring a special appearance by Joe Biden — I couldn’t help but find a couple of reasons to smile.
First, I was thrilled that there was a must-see episode of “Windy City Rehab” on HGTV that provided the demolition of a house’s interior as poetic alternative programming to the continuing self-destruction of the home of the brave.
Meanwhile, as those latter-day nattering nabobs of negativism sallied forth from reality, I was cheered that I has chosen this week to ferret out a Holy Trinity of titles from a storage box marked “Books I Read in College Which Will Serve Someday as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Survive 2020.”
I speak, of course, of “1984,” “Animal Farm” and “Brave New World.”
Nothing lightens the heart quite so much as knowing that the dystopian nightmare we’re watching played out in real time so carefully mimic those spelled out in Nostradamus-like detail decades earlier.
It brings about the same uncontrollable glee as giving a pre-teen their first look at an episode of “ST:TOS” and having them ask why Captain Kirk has to resort to using a flip phone.
But I digress.
The classic works of Orwell and Huxley have more in common than their prescience. Each has found themselves through the years on the receiving end of efforts to keep them being read.
This is Banned Book Week, which means it’s the only time you’ll find Winston Smith, Snowball and Mustafa Mond in the same place as Atticus Finch, Harry Potter and Captain Underpants — unless, that is, you throw one mean, literary themed Halloween party.
One guest you won’t find on a list of the most challenged books the aforementioned incumbent president.
Which is somewhat astonishing, considering that every other book published lately appears to be about the life, presidency or inner circle of the Twitterer in Chief.
If you don’t believe me, believe the math.
According to analysis by the publishing marketing company NPD BookScan, there have been roughly (some very rough) 1,200 titles about President Trump released in the four years since he was elected.
That comes out to almost a book a day, give or mostly take. (For you young’uns out there, that symbol with dots above and below a line means “divided by.”)
As a point of comparison, first-term books about his predecessor in office, Barack Obama, totaled a paltry 500.
If that doesn’t make you even more fearful of the Ministry of Truth, it might be worse: A non-analytical Amazon keyword search conducted by a writer for the British newspaper The Guardian found the total to be a bigly 4,514 tomes — which, if certifiable, would mean a daily publishing rate of well, you can do the figuring yourself, but it comes out to what my father used to call “a metric $#!+ton.”
That number might not be certifiable, but something about this sure is and it’s the number of people who find all these books to be worth buying and/or reading.
Who would want to read 1,200 books — never mind 4,514 — about anyone particularly someone who not only tells you what’s going on in his mind at any moment of the day on Twitter, but also has at his disposal his own cable news network to fill in the gaps?
Not me, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t do that to what’s left of my mind for all the Soma in World State unless they’re eventually translated into the original Klingon.
What possibly can there be remaining to tell us? And yes, before you ask, “The Autobiography of Donald Trump’s Hair” — which entices by promising “the story of the mane on top of the man on the top” — was published in 2016.
Presidential biographies can be a useful tool, even when the presidents involved are useless fools.
How else would we ever learn that William Howard Taft got stuck in the White House bathtub, Richard Nixon wandered the halls talking to ghosts and Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter?
Presidents themselves get in on the genre. James Buchanan, often considered the worst former inhabitant (thus far) of the Oval Office, wrote one. A two-volume set of memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant was published post-mortem by Mark Twain.
Jimmy Carter is the clear leader in the clubhouse, having discussed among other topics his presidency, foreign policy and his faith over the course of 52 books — three more than his electoral votes in the 1980 election.
Oops, there I go again.
How to explain this phenomenon? Perhaps with a few words from the authors of the Holy Trinity:
“Stability ... isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability.”
— Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World”
“The best books are those that tell you what you already know.”
— George Orwell, “1984”
Mail tribune news editor Robert Galvin is less equal that other Robert Galvins at email@example.com