Monday, January 30, 2017

Books in the Age of Trump

I'm curious about what books people are turning to in these, the early days of the Age of Trump.

"1984" seems to have assumed pride of place, Amazon having sold out of Orwell's volume. Some critics want to challenge that book's primacy, one of whom writing that Kafka's "The Trial" was much more apropos.

The unstated subtext of that argument is that readers are only capable of one book. 

An unnecessarily sad assumption.

People are rushing to the Sinclair Lewis classic, "It Can’t Happen Here." It's prescient and definitely worth a read, but I think it's satirical style makes it shallow when compared to Phillip Roth's marvelous "The Plot Against America."

"The Plot Against America" isn't flawless, but until Roth abandons the premise that the Charles Lindbergh has defeated FDR in the 1940 election and brought with him a friendliness toward Hitler and anti-Semitism, the writing is gripping, as good as anything in the Roth corpus.

In 2010, at age seventy seven, Roth forswore writing but not thinking. When the New Yorker asked for his opinion of the Trump phenomenon, his response was twofold.

He argued that, one the one hand, our democracy is still intact, not yet caving in to fascist/communist diktat:

Unlike writers in Eastern Europe in the nineteen-seventies, American writers haven’t had their driver’s licenses confiscated and their children forbidden to matriculate in academic schools.

On the other hand, Trump, as Roth sees him, represents an end case beyond his own literary imaginings.

As for how Trump threatens us, I would say that, like the anxious and fear-ridden families in my book, what is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe. 

***

I want to return to my original question and ask: what are you reading in these, the early days of Trump?

I've picked up a biography of Mussolini. That might seem absurd, I know, the differences being vast between post World War I Italy and the United States today, post invasion of Iraq.

But since the word "fascism" comes up often enough in relationship to Trump, I thought to look into the origins of the movement.

Your thoughts? Your books?






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