The Readlist: March 2017

Just one book this month and something that was being pushed by the publishers as timely and prosaic:

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

This novel has had a real push by its publishers ever since Trump became President back in January. “Oddly prescient!”, “super relevant!”, the promotional literature proclaims – I enjoy a bit of speculative and alternate history (and don’t read nearly enough of it, given) so I was happy to take the plunge with this.

Here’s the headline: it’s not nearly as ‘eerily prescient’ as they’d have you believe. Is it still a decent read? Yes. When I was investigating this book prior to buying it I stumbled across a ‘hot take’ saying that It Can’t Happen Here is actually the least relevant of all Sinclair Lewis’ novels. As much as the relevance isn’t overflowing, it’s undoubtedly there. It’s most obvious during the presidential campaigns in the first quarter, as you’d imagine, before the plot takes over from then-on. It’s fairly lengthy for what it is and falls into the hole of having some parts of incredible action and movement in the plot done and dusted in less than a page and entire chapters which are a near perfect repeat of the previous one. Persevere with it, I’d say. There’s swathes of the novel in the front half which are very repetitive and slow but once you’re in, you’re in.

At its heart, the novel deals with Doremus Jessop, a small-town newspaper proprietor, and his family and townfolk. Having the media element so prominent within the novel, a mixture of politically leaning characters and a few young adults makes ICHH a decent take on the circumstances from a variety of angles. What’s very clear though is that Jessop is no ‘hero’. We’re rooting for him as much as he’s the protagonist but he’s never presented in a way where he’s on a one-man crusade against a new terrifying regime. The reality of a new politics moving in is that many feel powerless to do anything regardless of their beliefs and their lives must continue as those above continue to grind the wheels in the background. You’ve still got your job to do, clothes to wash, food to earn and eat. The novel seems quite realistic in that sense.

Here’s some bits:

Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching Senator Windrip from so humble a Boeotia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.

Doremus had never heard Windrip during one of his orgasms of oratory, but he had been told by political reporters that under the spell you thought Windrip was Plato, but that on the way home you could not remember anything he had said.

When Windrip does reach power (obviously) there’s prominent elements of Nazi Germany. The little armies of ‘Minute Men’ that roam the streets, the hierarchy, the camps etc. and this…

By ill-natured people the Corpos were called “the Corpses.” But they were not at all corpse-like. That description would more correctly, and increasingly, have applied to their enemies.

Long Reads and Articles

Richard Simmons There’s been a lot of chatter this month about the Missing Richard Simmons podcast. Initially I thought it was a podcast parody: Simmons didn’t exist, it was all a concoction to mimic every investigative podcast going. The audio clips, the bits where they’re outside someone’s home – it can’t be real surely? It was and is, and the NYT aren’t so sure its morally right.

St4lker How good are you at Internet stalking? I haven’t done as much of it recently but my skills are outstanding. I deep Google, I cross reference different social streams, I check the electoral register, I find family members and long forgotten friends to get to my subjects and always succeed (be warned – I’m a stalking creep when I turn to my mind to it). I’m purely linking to this article as it goes step by step through finding the FBI chief’s secret account being as thorough as I would be.

Whodunnit A TV event aired across the continents and one question: whodunnit? The story of a terrible TV drama set in space and the race to get to the crux of it; who’s the murderer?

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