Apparently, there was a recent national event that has rekindled interest in futuristic literature depicting fascist states. Don’t ask me what happened; due to a recent inclination for slamming my noggin continuously upside a concrete wall so as to forget what I just saw, I have oddly forgotten what I just saw. Do ask me, since I am the co-proprietor of a fancy-pants bookstore, about this new interest in stories pertaining to fascism in our future. Yeah. Future.
A plethora of shell-shocked bibliophiles have descended upon READ Books in search of eminent dystopian soothsayers such as Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), Orwell (1984), & Huxley (Brave New World) who provide a kind of blueprint, ‘how-to-create-a-screwy-world’ vision of the future. In short, Atwood’s book depicts an America taken over by a theocratic dictatorship that picks on the ladies something awful. An edifying analysis by Neil Postman contrasts the divinations of 1984 & BNW: “What Orwell feared was those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.” If you find this stuff plausible, you’re probably a confused commie. Me, I’m still waiting for the dystopian novel describing an America where heterosexual white guys can’t celebrate X-Mas in peace. You’ll see. It shall be horrifically inconvenient.
Equally germane (if less celebrated) to the topic of fascist societies are the novels Children of Men (PD James), Oil (Upton Sinclair), & The Plot Against America (Philip Roth). C of M depicts a future England where women are sterile & immigrants are denunciated, imprisoned and/or deported by a fascist government. C of M is the rare book that was made into a movie that is arguably superior to the book. Oil, rather than exploring the scary future, barely fictionalizes the interred past in order to warn the reader of how big money can easily take over our government. Of local interest, Oil is based on real events & people (Doheny) of early 20th century Southern California. Roth’s entry is especially interesting in that he is perhaps the most prominent of the authors on my list, yet this title is largely overlooked in discussions about fascism fiction. Plot is sui generis in that it is essentially about what didn’t happen, but very well could have happened; a sort of plausible historical fantasy. In 1940 America, a war weary public on the heels of an economic depression elects a famous, racist, republican populist (Charles Lindbergh), who aligns himself with a dangerous foreign leader (Hitler), who may very well possess significant political leverage over our new president. The similarities, my paranoid pinko friends, are rather alarming.
But before we all declare via facebook posts and twitter tweets that this is the worst we’ve ever seen, let me suggest you talk to an African or Native American. Or read a few books about them. Start with Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which shall give you a healthy dose of perspective in its detailed account of how our democratically-elected leaders spent over a century stealing a country while subjugating, interning & ultimately annihilating its original inhabitants. Truly, in Trump’s stirring enterprise to become the most destructive American president ever, when one considers that our first 15 presidents piloted a government that murdered one group and enslaved another, Donald has his work cut out for him.
For those seeking a more profound understanding of our fascist past vis-à-vis our Afro-American brethren, I recommend starting with either a fictional account, Charles Johnson’s excellent Middle Passage, or the memoir 12 Years a Slave (Solomon Northup), which can be pleasantly punctuated with a movie night on the couch at someone’s home. And for those skeptical about our fascist tendencies over the ensuing century and then some, please check out The Fire Next Time (Baldwin), The Warmth of Other Suns (Wilkerson), and/or The New Jim Crow (Alexander). There is much that literature can teach us about our nation’s uninterrupted intimacy with fascism. Want to read a current account? Try Frederick Douglass. I hear that he’s doing an amazing job. Big impact!