Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Caligula For President

Ugh. I can actually hear gears grinding in my head as I change writing styles. Well, some recommendations should ease us into it.

Our friends at Boing Boing point out that Cintra Wilson has a new book forthcoming -- Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny. Caligula has returned to lead us into the new century. An excerpt:

You are going to need me, because on the subject of nepotism and dynasty, I must issue a dire warning. I prophesy that young George Prescott Bush III could present a direct threat to my divine authority in 2016.

Jeb Bush should have eaten George Prescott while he was still small enough to swallow whole. This boy is very handsome; he has thick black hair and speaks Spanish. He looks like Enrique Iglesias in a Turnbull & Asser suit. It is my opinion that he will be groomed to emotionally manipulate stadium crowds of fearful, lower-class young Jesus- lovers into a weeping, Elvis-worthy sexual panic, in concert with an organized, psychological operation of relentless global PR carpet bombing of a price and magnitude ordinarily associated with Exxon. The full weight of the Bush legacy's war chest will finally buy the love and total complicity of the cool youth vote: early- adopters, the extreme-sports community, and/or what ever the godforsaken future of Facebook- and MySpace-style social networking holds. A brave new frontier of image-making will mold young George Prescott into one part Che Guevara, one part young Ronald Reagan, and six parts Napoleon.

Combined with his family's patented banana-republic- style tilting of electronic voting machines, George Prescott will be unstoppable.

So, here's a little trick I picked up over the centuries: Take pains to ensure that he becomes addicted to hookers, OxyContin or anonymous gay sex in public men's rooms.

I believe this is the duty of all Americans who do not wish to hand over their children at birth to be trained as bullet- polishers for Halliburton.

Go get him, all you hot, hot, American whores, drug fiends and daring young homosexual men. Go get George Prescott.

I've given out more copies than I care to admit of her book of essays, A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations. I consider it one of the essential primers on moving to Hollywood. I was't a huge fan of her novel Colors Insulting to Nature, as it's basically exploring the same themes but through the lens of some very spun characters. The reviews are all solid, however, and my lack of enthusiasm is plainly biased by my fondness for essay-length writing.

In the Comments: your favorite essay-style book. Non-fiction, no short story collections. Does David Sedaris-style memorium count? I don't know. You hash it out in the Comments.


Fabricationist said...

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade By Thomas Lynch

Tor Hershman said...

John, ain't Caligula ALWAYS been president?

I mean, "...all men are created equal," and that was written and signed by slave holders.....really.

Stay on groovin' safari,

dqparks said...

United States and The Last Empire by Gore Vidal.
His writings post-1988 just come across now as eerie as to how insightful he was/is.
Especially note his 2000 letter (pre-election) to the next president. You'll get a shiver.
It helps to go youtube some of his old Dick Cavett/Tonight Show appearances to make sure that you hear the essays in your head in that distinctive Vidal patrician voice.

Matthew E said...

As one of the writers featured within, I'm somewhat partial, but I can nonetheless recommend Teenagers From the Future, a collection of essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes, edited by Tim Callahan. Seriously. I've read a draft of it and I'd recommend it even if none of my stuff was in it.

Michael Clear said...

Harlan Ellison's "The Glass Teat". Amazing how a book about television written in the 60s has actually become more relevant as time has passed.

Anonymous said...

Lives of a Cell, by Lewis Thomas, is fantastic. He's written a couple of other good books of essays as well, but Lives of a Cell is the classic. Also - Calvin Trillin's food memoirs from the 70s -- American Fried, Third Helpings, and Alice, Let's Eat. Anyone who makes up the mocking restaurant name "La Maison de la Casa House" is good with me.

:) - Betsy

Timmy Mac said...

A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti

Contains "The Green Fields of the Mind"

Doctor Memory said...

Not my favorite collection of essays ever, but it's sadly apropos to note that my favorite contemporary collection of essays is, easily, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" by the late David Foster Wallace.

Stu said...

I love _The Glass Teat_ as well, but nothing else comes close to _A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again_, by the recently deceased David Foster Wallace.

(sorry if this doubleposts. Blogger is being weird)

Matthew Dessem said...

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster, by the late, great David Foster Wallace.

Any collection of Orwell's essays.

Strong Opinions and Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov.

The Moronic Inferno, by Martin Amis.

That should about do it.

Keith said...

Neil Stephenson's In the Beginning Was the Command Line is great, if slightly dated.

Sam Harris' Letter To a Christian Nation is polemical, fiery, angry and so sharp, you may just get paper cuts from the prose. Better than his longer work. He really should stick to the short form essay.

Christopher Hitchens' The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice is effing brilliant, in spite of his subsequent decent into the depths of the Neocon toolshed.

Theliel said...

essay style, with various topics covered in each chapter:

Science of Diskworld, the
I, II and III (they'll melt your mind)

clete said...

I'm not too worried about George Prescott Bush, hampered as he is by the "George" and the "Bush" in his name. It'd be like running for president in Germany if your name was Adolph Prescott Hitler.

clete said...

Oh, crap--forgot book title. "Interpretation of Cultures" by Clifford Geertz.

Anonymous said...

A Criminal History of Mankind by Colin Wilson

Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson

The Good, The Bad, The Funny by Ramsey Dukes

Any one of these will rewire your brain - all three is better than serious drugs.

If you're willing to stretch the 'non-fiction' bit, Neal Stephenson's Anathem is an education on Big Thinking in itself.

Shan said...

I guess she's predicting the coming of Anakin Skywalker to bring them their salvation. But it'll end up being his son instead. And by their salvation, of course I mean the Apocalypse.

The Minstrel Boy said...

Dinosaur in the Haystack

Stephen J. Gould

Anonymous said...

From his actual myspace page--

"I am outspoken on certain issues. In August 2004, during a trip to Mexico sponsored by the group Republicans Abroad, I am responsible for calling Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez a dictator and I criticized the U.S. Border Patrol's use of guns which fire plastic pellets packed with chili powder."

Ooo, he called someone a name!

Joshua James said...

I have a bunch of favorites, but the only one that comes to mind as I sit here is NICKEL AND DIMED . . . I'm sure there are others, but I liked that one a lot.

I have BLINK on my table, but haven't read it yet . . . I think that may be a favorite.

And if anyone here hasn't read Klaus Kinski's autobiography and want a real sick yet fascinating trip, I recommend that, too.

BTW, seen plenty of LEVERAGE trailers, they look hot.

Hey John, when are you gonna talk about AMERICAN CAROL? Heh-heh.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Back in the day, we are told, Caligula waged war against the sea in his madness. But at least the sea is a physical object and is thus potentially defeatable; compared to a war against terrorism, a war against the sea is downright rational.

John Seavey said... was Cuchulainn, not Caligula, who waged war against the sea. (I suppose they both could have done it. Maybe it was a popular thing for insane monarchs to do.)

Anyhow, I'm surprised we've made it 22 comments in and nobody's mentioned Sarah Vowell. 'Take the Cannoli', 'The Partly-Cloudy Patriot' and 'Radio On' are all well-written, insightful, and funny as hell. (And her non-fiction book, 'Assassination Vacation', is really a lot of essays with a well-thought-out theme, so it probably qualifies.)

Keith said...

Oh, I can't believe I forgot sarah Vowel! She has a new book, the Wordy Shipmates.

Reuter said...

The Great Shark Hunt, by Hunter Thompson. More of a collection of other writings than an on-purpose essay book, but watching the progression in his style from the South America stories to the 1980(? I might be misremembering the year) Super Bowl by way of the Kentucky Derby is a blast.

Matthew E said...

That was Canute who went to war against the sea.

Nyctotherion said...

Canute went to war with the sea to prove exactly the opposite point: that he was not in fact divine or all-powerful. He was actually a pretty good king.

Benjamin said...

Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk. The essay on Amy Hempel alone is worth it.

Mike Cane said...

"The Fake Revolt" by Gershon Legman.

Anonymous said...

Guys, guys ... let's get our C-related legends straight.

Cuchulainn - the Hound of Culann, an Irish hero who's best known for starring in "The Cattle Raid of Cooley". There is very little sea-fighting to be found in Cuchulainn's adventures.

Caligula - Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, a.k.a. "Little Boots" ("Caligula"), saw his family put to death by the cruelest means Emperor Tiberius could conceive of, and was himself abused for years while forced to play Tiberius's little friend. He did wacky things when he became emperor, including a peculiar incident where he lined his troops up along the English Channel, and then told them to claim sea shells as the spoils of war.

King Cnut: the world's first dyslexic porn star, Cnut had an empire in the early 1000s that stretched from Scandinavia to England (which was more or less Scandinavian in culture at the time). He was a Christian monarch, and when his fawning servants once proposed that even the elements would obey his command, he decided to demonstrate inability to command the tides away from him. Only God can do that, after all, and sometimes Aquaman.

Scott said...

I'm seconding Gore Vidal's essays. "United States" and "The Last Empire" are stunning collections -- sharp, funny, prescient and vital!

Richard said...

So, I'm about a fortnight late to this discussion but in case anyone like me is sitting on the loo one day and needs something to read and starts glancing down through this list my two cents worth is:
Notes From a Big Country- Bill Bryson. He's this American journalist who moved to the UK when he was 23 or something, got married, popped sprogs, settled down and then decided to move back to the US. It's a bumch of articles that appeared in a UK paper about his thoughts on the place when he moved back varying from why his hair always looks silly to how extreme some members of the senate propose the justice system should be on drug users. You're an odd bunch and it helped make sense of you a bit from where I was sitting.

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