Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Politicians and Their Books

These are the sort of questions one ought to ask a politician:

When asked his favorite novel in an interview shown yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Mitt Romney pointed to “Battlefield Earth,” a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. That book was turned into a film by John Travolta, a Scientologist.

A spokesman said later it was one of Mr. Romney’s favorite novels.
“I’m not in favor of his religion by any means,” Mr. Romney, a Mormon, said. “But he wrote a book called ‘Battlefield Earth’ that was a very fun science-fiction book.” Asked about his favorite book, Mr. Romney cited the Bible.

I've not actually read the book, but Vox Day says it's "beyond bad", and since he knows far more about sci-fi than I do, I find no reason to disbelieve him.

As an aside, I can never seem to decide if I like science fiction. Those who like science fiction tend to adore it and read almost nothing else in the fictional realm whereas those who don't like it loathe it and avoid it at all costs. I guess I'm still somewhere in the middle. I liked Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, though I've yet to pick up any other books by Card save Empire, which was mediocre. I also loved Fahrenheit 451. On the other hand, I have yet to get all the way through H. G. Wells' fiction, despite owning a copy. Chalk that up as a tentative goal for the summer.

Anyway, I like the question for two reasons. First, it's simply more interesting than those of the type of which politicians are most often asked. There might be a reply to a mundane question which is not itself mundane but the prospect is doubtful. On the other hand, almost any answer to the question, "What is your favorite novel?" is bound to be, well, novel.

But the other reason is that with questions of this type, a politician can't help but answer honestly. There are no polls which seek to determine what kind of a book the commoners wish their leaders would read. After six plus years of Bush, most of are probably thankful that Romney has actually read something, even if we are less than happy about his choice.

In the grand scheme of things, this, of course, matters little. But it got me thinking. If I ever deigned to run for office and was asked a similar question, what would I answer? Several selections spring readily to mind: T.H. White's brilliant The Once and Future King; Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, which I plan on revisiting shortly; James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, though this might not sit well with the religious types; Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact, which is proof that I'm not entirely a literature snob; J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit which I thought was far more exciting than the trilogy itself; and, last but not least, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, but this would be just to scare the liberals stiff.

I liked Atlas Shrugged well enough, but thought the ending was disastrous, if predictable and consistent with the author's silly philosophy. I still think it worth reading, and indeed own a copy. I also think it a good recommendation for one's liberal friends. For if Ayn Rand's utopia is dis-topic, so too is the land which caused her protagonist to head for "better" hills. The glee with which the bureaucrats choke out Dagny's railroad empire is truly repulsive, and fairly accurate. There are liberals who would be foolish enough to kill the goose that laid the golden egg with the hope that there would be gold inside. To these such a book might do some good.

I'd almost have to go with Atlas Shrugged, purely for comedy's sake.


Donny said...

How about ABC by Dr. Seuss?

Big A, little a, what begins with A?...

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Aunt Annie's Alligator A, A, A!

On second thought, we have a new winner in the humor category. But what I would have to do to make it really funny is say "Either The Brothers Karamazov or ABC's by Dr. Seuss." I'd totally vote for me.

RegularRon said...

I guess my book would be if asked would be either Brave New World for fiction, and for Non-fiction History of the Roman Catholic church.

Yeah, I'm sure I'd get some angry folks on that one.

troutsky said...

Comparing Portrait of An Artist As a Young Man with Atlas Shrugged is heresy.Just trying to provoke me ,Im sure.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Just trying to provoke me ,Im sure.

You know me too well. From a comedic standpoint, suggesting that Atlas Shrugged is one's favorite book is priceless. I could maybe better it by telling the religious right that I just adored The Origin of the Species but it has to be a work of fiction. In that case I could use Das Kapital ;).

A Wiser Man Than I said...


I loved Brave New World. Who wrote the book on the History of the Roman Catholic Church? You should check out Warren Carroll's History of Christendom series. I finished the first volume; it was an exquisite pleasure.