Reimagining Great American Literature
[Note: Plays are generally considered literature, as they can be read. Film scripts are not, because their primary purpose is a directive for a single filming. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but there it is.]
For some reason, I’ve noticed how many American book titles seem to match today’s events, or even people. As an example, Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools perfectly describes the Trump Administration, especially when you think of the expression for an administration as “the Ship of State.” For the current investigations into Trump and his associates, All the President’s Men promises to be a good match, even without the content. And sadly, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which helped ignite the environmental movement 50 years ago, is more appropriate than ever. So is Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience. In light of this government’s attack on the social safety net, Emerson’s essay Self Reliance might come in handy, too. And it’s no accident that George Orwell’s 1984 has returned to the top of the bestsellers’ lists.
Many titles are good fits for Donald Trump. How can you do better than Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury? Last November 8th, when this clown was actually elected president, I thought of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.” Other titles suggested themselves, too; Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. A short story boarded the bandwagon, Raymond Carver’s “Would You Please Be Quiet, Please?” So did a poem by Edith Wharton, “A Failure.” One book Trump obviously has no clue about is Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. As you can see, this is a rich field, open for further exploration. I would also add that a title resembling the country since Donald Trump’s inauguration would be Eugene O’Neill’s play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Trump supporters are well represented, too, with Carson McCullers’ short story, “The Sucker,” and Norman Mailer’s book, Cannibals and Christians. What they still don’t realize is that Trump has no intentions of making their lives better, which makes me think of another title for a clue as to what awaits them: Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
Dalton Trumbull’s Johnny Got His Gun is a suitable title for American white men’s fetishism for dangerous penis extensions. A suitable title for this administration’s war against immigrants and refugees might be the Flannery O’Connor short story, “The Displaced Person.” Or with a little tinkering, another O’Neill play becomes “The ICE Man Cometh.
I couldn’t stop there, though. I’ve always loved word play, something I must have acquired from my dad reading Dr. Seuss to me when I was a child. There are a multitude of books that, with a little tweaking, are very descriptive of our modern predicaments. I’m concerned with the titles only, not the content, so please keep that in mind. By just changing a couple letters, a book title describing Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III might be A Racist in the Sun. A book about the doings of this right-wing Congress could be Fear and Loathing in Washington, D.C. If you wanted to portray the white nationalist movement in America today, I hope Thomas Wolfe will forgive me for Look Homeward, Anglo. A revamped children’s classic would illustrate the situation of many college graduates today, James and the Giant Student Loan Debt.
Trump’s infrastructure plan can aptly be titled For Whom the Highway Tolls.
There are plenty of treatments appropriate for the Republicans’ constant crusade to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying needs no revision, but I submit the following for your approval:
— Health Care — Gone With the Wind
— The Premium Also Rises
— Uncle Tom’s Cancer
— The Catheter in the Rye
— The Old Man and the Seizure
— Papa’s Delicate Pre-existing Condition
And when your only option for health care is the Emergency Room, there’s always The Red Badge of Triage.
If I wanted to delineate the oligarchy we currently live under, I could put a Half Nelson on a great Steinbeck novel, and call it The Wraiths of Grasp.
I said I was only interested in titles, not content, but a few ideas did occur to my fevered mind. The Ugly Trumpling could be a children’s book about a baby bird who thought he was a duck, but turned out to be a turkey, or maybe a vulture.
Mobama Dick, or the Black Whale would tell about a psychotic ship’s captain (again, think of the Ship of State) obsessed with rescinding or repealing every accomplishment by his predecessor, especially his signature achievement, Obamacare. I don’t remember how that one ends, but it contains many epic failures — that I can tell you.
Then there’s the story of a rich, privileged white man who has some very shady business dealings in his checkered past. He loves to throw lavish parties at his estate, because he desperately wants and needs approval. But he has a nasty habit of groping women because he thinks he can get away with it. I’d call it The Great Grabsby.
Your submissions are more than welcome.