“Slaughterhouse-Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr: In the book, the Tralfamadorians capture earth man Billy Pilgrim to live in a zoo-like geodesic dome on their planet and recount events in his life in random order. The Tralfamadorians also kidnap the B-movie starlet Montana Wildhack to be his mate. Assuming you have a soul, the book will help you with searching it and reflecting on your own life, particularly the passage that recounts the bombing of Dresden in World War II, witnessed by our hero. It might also give you a clearer picture of the horror of war aside from sanitized, abbreviated briefings and reports by embedded journalists.There you have it, Mr. President. These are my selections. I hope you find them to be illuminating, whether you are reading them on your vacation or after you return to Washington, D.C.
“Catch 22,” by Joseph Heller: As a former member of the Air National Guard, the background of this story should be familiar territory for you, though the pilots depicted in this story are flying in actual combat as opposed to taking 18-month leaves that are totally unaccounted for in any official records to work for Texas politicians. You certainly have Yossarian’s belligerence and scheming tendencies. Besides, the whole conversation between Yossarian and Doc Daneka about whether or not Orr should be grounded (which also provides the book’s title) sums up your administration’s illogic perfectly.
“The Last Lion,” Book 1, by William Manchester: Since you laughably fashion yourself as a Churchillian figure for our times, it might be best for you to read about his life so you have a clue of what you’re talking about the next time you start flapping your jaws about him. Manchester’s recounting of the formative years of Churchill’s life prior to his election to the British parliament is fascinating reading, though his almost poetic prose is dense at times (much like you). Also, try to imagine the courage and bravado that Churchill displayed when he escaped a South African prison farm during the Boer War, which will provide a hint as to just how far you fall short compared to other leaders on the world stage.
“Mornings on Horseback,” by David McCullough: One of our finest historians wrote this tour de force about Theodore Roosevelt, another one of your professed heroes. If for no other reason, is it important for you to read this book because, after doing so, you may truly come to understand how Roosevelt respected the beauty and wonder of our God-given natural resources in this country in the hope that some of that attitude might, by some improbable chance, be imparted to you also. You may also be particularly touched as you read about how Roosevelt escaped to the Dakota territory to find solace after the devastating twin losses of his first wife and his mother, truly “roughing it” during the last days of the Old West. But again, I’m not holding out hope that reading about how a great figure’s life was shaped as a response to tragedy will mean anything to you.
“A Confederacy Of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole: I realize that you have absolutely nothing in common with Ignatius Reilly, the Big-Chief-tablet-scribbling, overweight, virginal (according to girlfriend Myrna Minkoff), overbearing (well, maybe you do at that) protagonist concocting his mad ramblings about the human condition in and around New Orleans in this ostensibly comic story. However, maybe forcing you into something like the world Reilly experiences might – might – also force you to understand the consequences of the horrific actions of your administration on some of our most vulnerable citizens (and some of them deserve that fate for their actions, I admit, but not as many as you might think).
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
What, No "Archie" Comics?
I read this item today (a history of salt?), and felt inspired enough to recommend some reading material for our commander-in-chief as a public service. What follows are my recommendations with some brief highlights and some reasons behind the selections: