I work in a library. Every few days, we get a shipment of books in from other libraries. The shipments contain:
- patron-requested books that we do not have in our collection
- patron-requested books that we have in our collection, but are currently checked out
- books that we have sent out for the patrons of other libraries that have returned.
Yesterday, I had the job of processing incoming books for our patrons. I processed five copies of 1984: three paperbacks, one hardcover and one audio book. You may be thinking, “Five? That’s not a big deal.”
Well, it is. We are not a huge library. Normally, when we get multiple copies of a book, it’s in response to an order for one of the library’s many book clubs. And we only get deliveries one, two or (when the delivery service is operating like greased lightning …) three times a week. All six of our copies are checked out. And this has been going on for the last few weeks. In the canon of dystopian/political / social science fiction, 1984 has stood the test of time and its circulation at libraries everywhere bears witness.
Has 1984 turned the American public into the largest, unorganized book club on planet Earth (even without a vigorous imprimatur from Oprah?) Are we really going to read or re-read 1984 and fancy ourselves free-thinkers because we are reading it? Will we take the blamer’s point of view and eagerly look for Trumpism on every page? Or will we let the scales fall from our eyes in order to see how intensely we are affected by the cult of personality that permeates our media, our politics, our very culture and that distracts us from the Inner Party and what they’re up to? (Look at the little pyramid diagram on the link for Inner Party—you could be looking at one of the charts from Robert Reich’s excellent Inequality for All !) Will we see ourselves as the unwitting members of the Outer Party that we have become?
What other dystopian classics clutter your night stand? I need to do a post on The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I saw three copies of that in the hold pile yesterday.
Perhaps we’ll all be saying “Atwoodian” before we know it.