Monday, November 13, 2017

Fall Review of Unreadable Books: Living in Fantasyland

Editors' Note: Every so often our Literary Editors, none of whom recall being forcibly kissed, groped, fondled or ridiculed by Leon Wieseltier, share with you, the innocent reader, their discovery of a book so dreadful, so empty, so clich├ęd that it cannot possibly be read.  We call these books “Unreadable” to warn the literate public (Alabamans can skip to the next item) not to go near them with a 95% off coupon.  Here's their latest find.

by Kurt Andersen '76
Random House [How appropriate – Literary Ed.]
$30, already marked down to $20.28

Who among us fails to remember with fondness those long dinners in Dunster or Lowell with you and your brilliant friends and their brilliant friends and some graduate student in need of a shower and hairbrush sharing their brilliant take on the history of the world, the fate of humanity, or the inevitability of their brilliant career?  It was brilliant, right?

Whatever happened to those guys?  Some have faded into obscurity, by which we mean law or medicine or academia.  Some lied us into a lethal war of choice in Iraq.  Others used their legal talents and propensity for brown-nosing to reach the pinnacle of the American justice system, where they toil indefatigably to transform the U.S. Constitution into a vehicle for the exclusive protection of rich white reactionaries like themselves.

Others achieve literary fame and fortune, like the author of the instant unreadable book, an effort to explain why the United States finds itself enmeshed in a web of lies that have left democracy and the rule of law trapped and devoured by those in power.  Our author, Kurt Andersen '76, relies on his 30-year career as an intellectual and social historian conducting painstaking research and inquiry into the dark and treacherous waters of the American past.

Nah, we're just bullsh*tting you.  Our author has been f**king around New York City since graduation: editing a humor magazine, trying his hand at the occasional novel, and serving as the host of the well-known public radio program The Kurt Andersen Tower of Power Hour.  [Louise, get the name of his f**king show – Literary Ed.]

So it's no surprise that he pads out his almost 500-page compendium of trivia by starting with the first European settlers, who according to Our Historian embarked on their journey guided by their wild fantasies of what they would find.  This presumably distinguished them from the deeply rational, thoughtful churls they left behind in early 17th Century England.

A random walk through American bs
From there, it's a whirlwind journey through American bullsh*t, up to and including President U Bum, at the end of which Kurt concludes that there are a lot of idiots out there who didn't go to an Ivy League college so what after all can we expect?  And can you believe how much the co-op board is assessing us for a new boiler?  Jesus H. Christ!

Had he actually mastered American history in all of its tawdry sanguinary glory he might have noticed, as so many others have, that American insanity tends to run in entirely predictable and well-worn channels.  He might have have drawn a line connecting centuries of lies about those African folks brought to America in chains, a line as thick and unmistakable as the coffles of chained slaves sold down the river by the good fathers of Georgetown University for the profit of those white men who endowed the great Ivy League universities whose tables were graced by Kurt and his buddies.

He might have observed the uncanny similarity between the lies told in the 17th Century to justify enslaving said individuals to the lies told in the 19th Century by those who would betray their country to protect their interest in slavery to the lies told in the 21st Century by the immiserated yahoos of Johnstown Pa., who claim not to understand why black athletes protest before games but love to tell you that NFL really stands for N***** for Life.

Kurt might even have cast a glance back at his very own Alma Mater, which peddled eugenic nonsense and myths of racial superiority from the mid-nineteenth to the late 20th centuries.

Or he could have taken a look at the not just American tradition of treating women as property until the middle of the 19th Century, or in the case of Republican Senate candidates, repulsive movie moguls, and loathsome comedians, until deadline today.

Then having done so he might have noticed striking consistencies among the lies Americans, especially the white ones, have told themselves for centuries, but of course that would require research, rigor, and a willingness to face some unpalatable truths.  But if his classmate John Roberts doesn't think that racism remains a problem today, how could Kurt be expected to grasp truths obvious to those whose skin color or chromosomes differ from his?

What would it take for Kurt and classmates to understand?  Easy: they would have to be willing to shut up and listen.  Sadly that's the one skill they didn't teach these boys in college.

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