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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Department of Book Reports 37: You May Not Have Heard of This One

I had wanted to report on Dennis Johnson’s National Book Award Nominee Novel, Tree of Smoke (Farrar Straus Giroux $27.00), a great book, but it’s very long, over 600 pages, and I haven’t finished it yet. So, in order to do it justice, it will have to wait until my next report.
Instead, I wanted to point out a book that has probably slipped under your radar. Released this week, without much fanfare or promotion, is I Am America (And So Can You) (Grand Central $26.99), a book authored by an obscure journalist who hosts a program for a small cable network, Stephen Colbert. If nothing else, it is a beautifully produced book, with red edges, nicely illustrated end papers and includes an embossed ribbon bookmark and stickers, which will be fun for the kids.

Colbert is fairly well-known in conservative circles. His conservatism is reflected in the many current topics he covers. On the Class War, he says “Let them buy the cake for a change”; on Sports, “when it’s ok to shower with men”; on Science, “Thanks for the Nukes, now go away”; on Hollywood, “Lights! Camera! Treason!”. I think you get the idea of where he stands on the issues.

Why this book should languish in obscurity is beyond me. It has won the first ever, and coveted “Stephen T. Colbert Award for Literary Excellence”. The author has tried to ramp up sales by self-promotion, but so far, sales seem sluggish. One of Colbert’s ploys was to initiate a letter writing campaign to a famous TV talk-show host (via Shelf Awareness, an E-zine for the book trade):

"My dearest Oprah,

"Congratulations! Out of nearly 300 million Americans, you have been selected to promote Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!) on your wildly popular television show. I'm writing to express my excitement on your behalf. This is the break you've been waiting for!"

The lure for Oprah: to repair the book club's "troubling record. So far, you've given your implicit endorsement to liars, hermaphrodites, the apocalypse, and, in honoring Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fidel Castro. All of which are actively plotting to destroy America. Isn't it about time you chose a book that cared about this nation?"

"Selecting I Am America (And So Can You!) for your Book Club will go a long way toward erasing the long-standing concerns and nagging doubts about your patriotism that have dogged you ever since they were first raised in this letter."

It seems sadly pathetic.

The book is available at Jackson Street Books and other fine independent bookstores.

And speaking of sadness, democommie™™™™®© is depressed that once again the Nobel Committee has ignored his contributions to literature through his tireless commenting on the blogosphere. Chin up, there, buddy, there’s always the Peace Prize. Hmm, what? Who? Al Gore?
Update! Here's Stephen at David Letterman's. Thanks Darryl!

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