Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, January 27, 2017

A rallying cry to reading

One of the few bright spots in the news these days are reports of a renewed interest in reading, particularly certain classics that seem to reflect all too accurately upon our current state of affairs.

A book that has quickly climbed to the top of bestseller lists and has publishers scrambling to print copies as fast as they can lately is George Orwell's 1984, particularly now that the phrase "alternative facts" has entered our lexicon.

With so many new examples of doublespeak coming at us both online and off, it's almost no wonder that people are seeking some much needed clarity from this iconic novel about the long term effects of an intrusive dictatorship upon it's citizens, hoping to be far more successful than the book's leading man, Winston Smith, in his efforts to resist the grasp of Big Brother's minions:

Even before the results of the recent presidential election, readers were scrambling to get any edition they could of It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Publishers are also straining to keep up with the demand for this one.

 This 1935 novel(which was also adapted into a stage play and later, an inspiration for the 80's sci-fi series V) is not as well known as Lewis' other stories that highlighted social ills of his time such as Main Street and Elmer Gantry but with it's tale of an America run by manipulative politician turned dictator, ICHH has certainly stuck a nerve in the here and now.

It's also interesting to note that the hero of the novel is a journalist, Doremus Jessup, who uses his power of the press to thwart the growing danger of this new government. Particularly relevant to our current headlines since a sadly prominent White House staff member has recently declared  "the media" to be the big problem and that they need to "shut up". It's charming attitudes like this that are making people run to their bookstores and libraries looking for relevant reading:

Another book with a similar theme to ICHH that has been gaining new popularity is Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, which has become an Amazon Studios series now in it's second season.

PKD's vision of a world where Hitler and his allies won WWII is considered a hallmark of the science fiction sub-genre known as alternate history(which is basically a twisted version of It's A Wonderful Life). The book won the Hugo award in 1963 and even before the online series was regularly reprinted.

While the show has naturally revived interest in the source material, you really can't deny that our real world headlines are making both the book and the series feel incredibly current to the way we live now:

While we're seeing many forms of protest these days, it's good to note that reading is just as much of a formidable act of rebellion as any other. Choosing to be educated and knowledgeable about the world is your best weapon against ignorance and intolerance.

I'd also like to point out that novel reading during such times is important. Nonfiction is vital, of course, but fiction teaches people empathy, a skill that is in serious decline right now. Seeing things from another point of view and realizing our own flaws and preconceived notions about how others live is how we learn to advance as a civilization.

There are plenty of wonderful novels out there that can open your eyes and be thoughtful entertainment as well. Books such as A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee, The Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Mothers by Brit Bennett and so many more. Celebrating our freedom to read is a key part in dealing with what lies ahead as well as healing our emotional wounds together:

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