September 12, 2013

Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Enormous Brothels”


Jimmy Carter wants to talk about something.

Sometimes, when you’re reading a New York Times article that basically shops an author’s book around town for them, something jumps out at you: a germ of an idea; a unique perspective; even, say, a word or two that just screams “use me as your title!” In the case of Jimmy Carter‘s new book, those words have got to be “enormous brothels.”

The new book that Carter plans to write, and for which his agent, Lynn Nesbit, has been circulating a proposal to a number of publishing houses, will focus on women. And amazingly, not just the way they’ve been discriminated against, or how they hold up half the sky, or what they want (what do they want? I don’t know, maybe a new book?), or any of the usual topics, but on “all aspects of women’s lives.”

But in essence, the book sounds like it will be homiletic: Carter intends to draw on his own experiences traveling the world to comment on the treatment of women generally. Such experiences as

a trip around Africa with Bill Gates Sr. and his wife during which he and I spent much of our time in enormous brothels, and appeared with Nelson Mandela to end South Africa’s practice of outlawing treatment for H.I.V.-AIDS.

Now it is universally acknowledged that the enormous brothels are the worst brothels, just the worst, you can’t even make a choice, it’s like you’re at the salad bar and there’s all this pressure and in the end you just end up with mixed greens, raw mushrooms, and half a stuffed grape leaf.

But flippancy aside, really?? Bill Gates and Jimmy Carter spent a lot of time together in larger-than-normal brothels and now he wants to write a book about it? Where is this going to end up? Clinton’s reminiscences of really little poker rooms? Bush’s memoirs about weirdly spacious bodega bars?

However, since Carter already has a title that’s going to move copies at every NGO benefit and college talk he attends for the foreseeable future, I’d like to suggest some new titles for similar books that might even out the competition a bit:

2013’s Sexiest Female Weightlifters—Nicholas Kristof

Let’s Get Closer—Sheryl Sandberg

Reading Playgirl in Tehran, And Not for the Articles—Azar Nafisi

Thirty-Five Appletinis—Greg Mortensen

The World is Kinda Curvy—Thomas Friedman

An Inconvenient, But Incredibly Hot, Truth—Al Gore

It Takes A Sorority House—Hillary Clinton

The Audacity of Hope—Barack Obama [no title change needed, just a slap a different cover on there and we’re good]


Sal Robinson is a former Melville House editor. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.