September 30, 2013
7 books made awesome by the Republican government shutdown
by Dustin Kurtz
The shutdown of the U.S. government by House Republicans is imminent. This brave cadre of True Citizens are very very concerned that the Affordable Care Act — signed into law in 2010 — might adversely affect our nation’s downtrodden and heavily burdened insurance companies. They’ve decided that what this nation needs is a dose of tough love. Or, not so much love, really, as idiocy. Tough idiocy. The best kind. Anyhow, unless the Senate and the President both decide that now would be an awesome time to back down and defund their hard-won legislative program at the behest of a vocal minority of House Republicans, which is not likely to happen, we’re facing a major government shutdown on Tuesday.
And sure, many people might spend the next month slapping their forehead and the foreheads of everyone around them at the pointlessness and cruelty of the thing. But there is a bright side to it all. As we see in the examples below, a government shutdown could make for some pretty awesome literature in a few years when our authors have had time to digest it all.
I present, then, seven books that would have been more awesome if they had been set during a government shutdown.
1. “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft’s classic story was inspired, in part, by Easter Isand statues the author saw in the Smithsonian Museum. But what if the museum had been closed due to a government shutdown? Would he have been forced to take a nice stroll? Where would Lovecraft have drawn his inspiration? I submit that one of the premiere works of American supernatural fiction could have been set on a rather uncomfortable park bench! (ooOOOOoooh! *scary finger wiggling*). Pigeon-with-a-weird-club-foot-thu fthagn!
2. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Our hero Howard Roark is at work in a granite quarry, because he is too good of an architect to get clients and because of muscles. Unfortunately, during a government shutdown, much of the Department of Labour will be in a state of limbo, with no-one to monitor or enforce labor abuses. Forced by his bosses to work illegally long hours or lose his job, Roark stays in the quarry until he is exhausted. Too tired and Superior to work safely, Roark slips and injures himself. Fortunately he has health insurance through the new state-run ACA insurance marketplaces, which will not be closed down in the case of a Federal shutdown. As a result, he is able to afford better care than he otherwise could. This doesn’t change his mind about his own destiny as a Superior human being, and he is still a real bummer, but while he was under a general anaesthetic a med student drew a little Hitler ‘stache on him and videoed his ravings and uploaded them to the internet, where they went viral, and now nobody takes this nutbar seriously.
3. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Our hero Ana would like to apply for a federally-backed loan to help her attend Washington State University. The timing is tricky however, and with the government shutdown, many of these loans are not going through. Instead Ana takes some time off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. On a high ridge in southern Washington she falls into a sub-dom relationship with Bigfoot, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds and involves very little petitie bourgeois wealth-fetishization and absolutely no paperwork.
4. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
National parks are closed during a government shutdown. Our chatty protagonists can neither climb Matterhorn Peak in Yosemite or go to work as fire lookouts. Dejected and with nothing much to do, they decide to actually study Zen rather than just co-opt it. They all spend the rest of their lives slowly, mindfully, growing some pretty awesome carrots.
5. Palo Alto by James Franco
If the government shutdown lasts long enough, federal assistance for state run school lunch programs, funded on a month by month basis, won’t be forthcoming. As a result, every character on the hit television show Freaks and Geeks dies a slow death from malnutrition. James Franco is upstaged by the unforgettable last scene of that one kid with the glasses. He never becomes famous. Nobody has any reason to publish this book. Awesome.
6. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
While the IRS will still be collecting taxes, they will be suspending all auditing. The central characters of Wallace’s last, unfinished novel walk out into the bright Illinois sun, and from there out, they scatter outward, walking first over curb and asphalt, then over mown grass, then into a wilder, insect-spittled weedland and at last into birch stands or corn mazes, beyond which all trace of them is lost. They are free, or dead.
7. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
No new passports will be issued while the government is shut down. Gilbert asks a very confused snakehead to smuggle her into China, with a plan to work her way South from there as a mule for illicit jade. The book is more or less the same after that point but, sadly, the only gelato available inside her locked cargo container on a heaving ship in the middle of the Pacific proves to be sub-par. Enraged, Gilbert spends the rest of the trip doing one-armed push ups and honing her fighting style. Once her ship reaches port and the container is opened: awesome gelato-disappointed fists of fury.
Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.