Labor Day is approaching, and I am racing to the finish to complete the last installment in a summer reading list so grotesque, so trashy, I shame myself. The post–Labor Day moratorium on white shoes and clothes has long ranked among etiquette hard-liners’ most sacred rules. The same holds true with summer reading. On the beach, in the hammock or in the pool, garbage books are pretty much accepted. After Labor Day, however, they are the literary equivalent of a pair of white pumps, a blemish on your record of good taste. The Summer of 2011, I dumpster dived through:
With the exception of Hunger Games, these are pretty awful even by summer’s standards. Not “Classic Trash” – those timeless tracts of tawdriness, just unmitigated junk. Which brings me to President Obama’s summer reading list for his maligned, 7 day summer vacation at Martha’s Vineyard. How does Post-Bush Era America respond when confronted with a President who actually reads books while he’s on vacation? Why with criticism, of course. The Department of Homeland Reading logged protests by – among others – Greta Van Susteren, The Boston Globe and Tevi Troy, who railed against the president’s oppressive reading in the National Review:
[Obama’s book selection] may constitute the oddest assortment of presidential reading material ever disclosed, for a number of reasons. First, five of the six are novels, and the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president, because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality.
Well let’s add “reading fiction” to the laundry list of things by which Obama is “setting himself up for a charge”! Alert the Asylum, a “novel” has transmitted an acquired metabolic psychosis to the President. One gets the sinking feeling that not only has Mr. Troy never read a novel ever, but also that he might not know what a novel even is. I mean, what about all that stuff we learned in 7th grade lit, like allegory, cautionary tales, satire, and water imagery. Even more bizarre than the “novel leads to madness” theory is the idea that all non-fiction is necessarily in touch with reality.
Obama, like other Democratic presidents, has tended to read mainly liberal books, although he could stand to gain some insight from conservative ones. There could be many reasons for his selection bias, but buying his books at the “legendary” Bunch of Grapes probably is not helping matters. While I have never had the pleasure of shopping there, the store’s website highlights a variety of its offerings, with nary a conservative work. There may be some on the shelves there somewhere, but they are probably not staring Obama in the face when he visits the store. According to the results of my unscientific survey of Bunch of Grapes’ website, Laura Ingraham’s Of Thee I Zing, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, and Mark Steyn’s After America were available for online ordering.
So… no book other than a straightforward political tract – like something “written” by racist banshee Laura Ingraham – qualifies as a “book”. I didn’t even know that books could be divided into “liberal” and “conservative”. Obama could have read a “conservative book” and he could have read non-fiction, but I defy you to point to one example in the modern canon that is both at the same time (correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Atlas Shrugged a novel? Or is it unquestionable gospel now, like the bible which there is only one version of and can never be changed? Like the Koran). I could entertain the premise that Obama ought to acquaint himself with the philosophical underpinnings of conservatism, but surely there are better ways than subjecting himself to the literary equivalent of watching Ann Coulter puke all over liberals. As for this “legendary”, high falutin’ seaside book shop, it clearly panders to elitists, you know, people who read.
And like with everything Obama-related, the criticisms are not relegated to the conservatives. Salon‘s Robin Black – in a bleating, passive/aggressive tract that passes for an Onion opinion piece – dismisses Troy’s complaints as idiotic, because the real indignity is that Obama doesn’t read enough women authors, reminding me how stultifying left-wing moronism can be.
They are ALL missing the real travesty here, namely that Obama doesn’t read enough memoirs of retired athletes . Seriously, can we just be grateful that we have a president who reads? That can read at all? Mr. Obama, the most literary president in recent history – followed a conservative president who couldn’t read a book of fucking matches. He also ran against one half of a presidential ticket that couldn’t name one goddamn magazine or newspaper. Not Readers Digest, not a Finger Hut catalogue, not Guns ‘N Ammo, not the fracking TV Guide, nothin’.
It’s summertime, and Barry and I can read anything we fracking want. Tonight I’ll polish off “Inside Scientology”, and then ceremoniously toss all the summer junk into the trash. Next summer I hope to see President Obama hoofing it to the beach toting a cooler and copies of The Communist Manifesto and The Necronomicon.
“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” – Edward P. Morgan