READING INTO 2017
The rapid economic and political changes we have to anticipate for 2017 ensure that outlining a plan for reading will be an arduous chore.
A pleasant accident would be discovering a useful narrative link between Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno" and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, an accident that justifies one's refusal to become overmuch excited about the latest offerings in fiction. In the Age of Trump, the presence of subaltern voices is ultimately of greater weight than the vapid tweets that assault us inside and outside of fiction. Pleasant accidents shall be rare, and more energy must be given to making smart, practical choices.
As was the case in 2016, a considerable amount of reading will be influenced by the legacy of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), the ideas he proposed regarding political philosophy, Jewish studies, and Islamic studies. We must read how those ideas were translated into domestic and foreign polices during the two terms President Obama served in office and how they may be further twisted, with Machiavellian zeal, as the Trump administration struggles with the phenomena of fear, terrorism, the fallacy of greatness, climate change, the increase of mental health problems, the irreversible widening of the gap between wealth and poverty in our nation, and our sudden invitations to toss faith, hope and charity into a black hole and to cultivate abject disregard for what was once called the sanctity of human life in some dangerous gaming with post-human promises.
After January 20, 2017, I will have a more reasonable notion of what should be listed as required reading. If my intuition is not a delusion,
Faust, David. The Limits of Scientific Reasoning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Katznelson, Ira. Fear Itself :The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time. New York: Liveright, 2013.
Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell:" America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Perennial, 2003.
Reich, Walter, ed. Origins of Terrorism. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998.
will remain high on the list.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr. December 30, 2016