Grim Headlines: Read as Our Bad News Forebears Did

Grim Headlines: Read as Our Bad News Forebears Did

Postby Oscar » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:43 am

In Times of Grim Headlines, Read as Our Bad News Forebears Did

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They turned to Agatha Christie in a time of global misery and creeping authoritarianism. Now I see why.

By Shannon Rupp , | February 11, 2017

Shannon Rupp is a Tyee contributing editor. Find her previous Tyee pieces here: [ ]

The bright side of the world’s political swing to the right is that it has people catching up on their reading. Unfortunately, it’s misery reading.

In January, Amazon briefly sold out of George Orwell’s 1948 book about Britain as a totalitarian state, 1984. The sales boost came courtesy of all the political pundits invoking Orwell while covering Donald Trump. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is also finding new fans for the same reason. The 1932 novel was written after the British author’s first visit to the U.S., where he found a country obsessed with commerce, conformity, and drug-induced positive thinking.

Neil Postman’s excellent Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, which ties it all together for the mass media age, is also climbing the charts again. His 1985 analysis looks at the impact of TV, and he argues persuasively that while Orwell wrote an interesting story, Huxley called it right when it came to predicting the future.

I’m calling this classics revival English 498 — Directed Readings in Depressing Dystopias. Naturally, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 page-turner The Handmaid’s Tale is on the list. The scarily prescient piece of speculative fiction imagines an alternate U.S. dominated by theocrats, and the story is also coming to TV-and-streaming in April. If you make it through all of those books without sliding into the black pit of depression, you might want to join the new fans of Sinclair Lewis’s dated satirical novel It Can’t Happen Here, from 1935, about a demagogue who becomes the American answer to Hitler.


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