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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What to Read During Trump's Presidency



Sales of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 soared after Kellyanne Conway, adviser to Donald Trump, used the phrase “alternative facts” in an interview.  Conway’s comment obviously reminded people of Orwell's tale of a society in which a Ministry of Truth distorts and suppresses facts.  See a full story about this development at http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/sales-of-george-orwells-1984-spike-after-trump-spokesperson-presents-alternative-facts.  (There’s a new British stage production of the play based on the novel opening up on Broadway in June:   http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/1984-play-broadway-1.3965317.)

A mystery benefactor in San Francisco recently gave away bulk copies of George Orwell’s1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts to bolster resistance to the new US regime (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/07/orwell-and-atwood-given-away-fight-back-nineteen-eighty-four-the-handmaids-tale?CMP=twt_books_b-gdnbooks).

1984 is not the only book whose sale has spiked.  Literary Hub has started compiling what it calls a “public service shopping list”:  “we will keep . . . a running list of all the good books whose sales rise because of Trump’s unintentional (read: they won’t be his “own” books, or books about him) shilling, via his stupidity, ignorance, terrifying policies, and otherwise”

The Washington Post has also written about how Trump "has unwittingly launched a book club for America. Every feud, every outrage, every did-he-really-just-do-that episode propels a new literary discussion."  The author of the article asks, "So if you’ve rediscovered an old book that speaks to our new political realities, if you’re a professor of American government suddenly rethinking your assigned readings, if you’re finding new books in other languages that imagine where the United States and the world are headed, please share your picks widely — and let me know. . . .2017 has ushered in the Trump presidency — and now the Trump’s America Book Club. I hope you join" (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2017/02/09/a-president-who-rarely-reads-has-launched-a-book-club-for-all-of-america/?utm_term=.7477e1770e5d).

Four years can be a long time, so what else should people read?

Well, there’s a new book coming out later this spring that might be interesting.  The Guardian recently announced that Howard Jacobson has written a comic fairytale novella which will be published in April.  Apparently, the novella, entitled Pussy, “tells the story of Prince Fracassus, heir to the Duchy of Origen, famed for its golden-gated skyscrapers and casinos, who passes his boyhood watching reality TV shows and fantasising about sex workers.  Idle, boastful and thin-skinned as well as ignorant and egotistical, Fracassus seems the last person capable of leading his country. But what seems impossible becomes reality all too readily” (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/24/howard-jacobson-writes-donald-trump-novella-pussy?CMP=twt_books_b-gdnbooks).

And then there’s Salman Rushdie’s new novel , The Golden House, which will be released in September. “It follows a young filmmaker coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama through to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.  According to Penguin Random House Canada, Rushdie will reflect on everything from the Tea Party and identity politics to the rise of a certain ‘ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain’ with unusually coloured hair” (http://www.cbc.ca/books/2017/02/salman-rushdies-new-thriller-takes-on-the-rise-of-trump.html).

For other suggestions, why not refer to a list compiled by Literary Hub.  On inauguration day, writers were asked ““What book is necessary reading in the face of today’s inauguration?”  See http://lithub.com/50-books-for-the-next-four-years/ for the list. 

I will add a personal recommendation:  The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa about the voyage of the SS St. Louis in 1939.  It reminds us of the consequences of closed borders.  Substitute “Muslim” for “Jew” and “plane” for “ship” and the similarities between history and the present are inescapable.   As a work of fiction, this book is not flawless, but its message needs to be heard.  See my review at http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2017/02/review-of-german-girl-by-armando-lucas.html.

Some Muslim literature would be appropriate so check out my blog from yesterday: http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2017/02/muslim-literature.html.  And over the next four days, I will blog about books from Trump’s seven “banned” countries, immigrant literature, refugee literature, and border literature.