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Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics

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Dystopian Future Reading
Dystopian Future Reading

It seems I had the same thought as many people.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is among several classic dystopian novels that seem to be resonating with readers at a moment of heightened anxiety about the state of American democracy. Sales have also risen drastically for George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984,” which shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list this week.

Other novels that today’s readers may not have picked up since high school but have landed on the list this week are Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, “Brave New World,” a futuristic dystopian story set in England in 2540; and Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” a satire about a bellicose presidential candidate who runs on a populist platform in the United States but turns out to be a fascist demagogue. On Friday, “It Can’t Happen Here” was No. 9 on Amazon; “Brave New World” was No. 15.

The sudden boom in popularity for classic dystopian novels, which began to pick up just after the election, seems to reflect an organic response from readers who are wary of the authoritarian overtones of some of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. Interest in “1984” surged this week, set off by a series of comments from Mr. Trump, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, and his adviser Kellyanne Conway, in which they disputed the news media’s portrayal of the crowd size at his inauguration and of his fractious relationship with American intelligence agencies. Their insistence that facts like photographs of the crowd and his public statements were up for interpretation culminated in a stunning exchange that Ms. Conway had on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when she said that Mr. Spicer had not lied about the crowd size but was offering “alternative facts.”

To many observers, her comment evoked Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian society in which language becomes a political weapon and reality itself is defined by those in power. The remarks prompted a cascade of Twitter messages referencing Orwell and “1984.” According to a Twitter spokesman, the novel was referenced more than 290,000 times on the social network this week. The book began climbing Amazon’s best-seller list, which in turn drove more readers to it, in a sort of algorithm-driven feedback loop. It amounted to a blizzard of free advertising for a 68-year-old novel.

(click here to continue reading Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics – The New York Times.)

1984 was out of print, but I bought a copy of it from Amazon that will arrive whenever. Of these eight books, I have read several, but it had been years and years. For whatever reason, I have not ever read Sinclair Lewis’s, “It Can’t Happen Here”, nor Czesław Miłosz’s,”The Captive Mind”, nor more than a couple of excerpts of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origin of Totalitarianism”. 

In comments to the above photo of dystopian books on Flickr, I asked what other books I should add to the list,  commenters suggested “We”, by Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, completed in 1921 as well as “The Road” by American writer Cormac McCarthy. Any others you can think of? 

So if I’m grimmer than normal about Trumpism, you’ll know I’ve been reading from this pile…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 28th, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Books,politics,Suggestions

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