Even the Plots of Past Novels Change in the Disruptive Era of Trump

With President Trump and America’s far-right-Republican-controlled Congress changing everything for the worse (trying to yank away medical insurance, gut environmental regulations, lower taxes on the rich, etc.), it’s only a matter of time before the content of past novels changes to more accurately reflect what’s currently going on. Here’s what we might see:

— John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces becomes the story of today’s vile GOP politicians.

— Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls becomes the biography of House and Senate leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

— Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping becomes the saga of Republicans trying to retain control of the House via gerrymandering and suppression of Democratic votes.

— Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness becomes the story of Vice President Mike Pence.

— Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter becomes the tale of dad-enabler Ivanka Trump’s rise.

— Toni Morrison’s Beloved becomes about the admirable people who oppose Trump, Ryan, McConnell, and their GOP ilk.

— Henry James’ Washington Square becomes a confirmation that the far right now in DC is just plain un-hip.

— Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country becomes a description of the custom of many lower-income whites in rural areas (“the country”) to vote against their self-interest for the cater-to-the-rich Trump.

— George Orwell’s 1984 becomes about the IQ Trump thinks he has (but doesn’t).

— (Ms.) Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother becomes an Orwellian novel rather than a book about an obese sibling.

— Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses becomes Trump’s self-published book of bawdy limericks.

— Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood becomes a list of all the lies flowing out of Trump’s mouth in 2017. Annual sequels to follow.

— Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things becomes an anatomical look at Trump’s small fingers and his small…

— Willa Cather’s Shadows on the Rock becomes the story of how Trump and his expanding waistline loom over Melania’s huge wedding ring.

— Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 becomes about the first 22 law-abiding, hard-working undocumented immigrants the Trump administration cruelly nabs and deports.

— Colette’s The Shackle becomes the description of a prison device Trump wants to use on innocent Muslims.

— Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind becomes about climate change melting polar ice and causing various species to become extinct.

— Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano becomes about the coolest place to huddle after climate change worsens.

— Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire becomes the story of the all-white, cross-burning Ku Klux Klan that enthusiastically supports Trump and other GOP leaders.

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude becomes a treatise on the length and type of prison sentence deserved by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

— James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain becomes the story of Mount Rushmore’s four sculpted heads getting so disgusted with Trump that they actually speak.

— Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale becomes speculative fiction about anticipating the day Trump leaves or gets kicked out of the White House.

— Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy become the go-to collections of our physiological and verbal reactions to today’s far-right GOP rule.

Any novels with new meanings you’d like to add to my list? Would love to see them!

Here’s a review of, and a video interview about, my new literary-trivia book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I also write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column is here.

Fictional Religious Hypocrites Seem All Too Real These Days

Religious hypocrisy is on my mind at a time when many Christian evangelicals support Donald Trump despite America’s so-called president being an immoral person who has no compassion, cheated on his wives, sexually assaulted women, is racist to the core, is endlessly greedy, is a blatant liar, is pathologically narcissistic, and more. Anything to get their right-wing agenda enacted, I suppose.

Literature includes many hypocrites resembling those evangelicals and the many “religious” Republican politicians who espouse “values” (ha ha). I’ll discuss some of those fictional characters today.

For instance, Benjamin Blake’s Ireland-set A Death in Summer, which I read recently, includes a priest character who runs an institution for troubled boys. Despite his pious exterior, he is well aware that the institution’s rich benefactor is a vile pedophile taking advantage of those boys.

(I followed Blake’s absorbing murder mystery with Alexander Pushkin’s 1836 adventure-romance The Captain’s Daughter, which depicted little religious hypocrisy but is a great novella containing fluid prose and dialogue that seems more 20th century than 19th century.)

The priest in A Death in Summer reminded me a bit of the faux-religious Mr. Brocklehurst, wealthy “benefactor” of the Lowood institution in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The girls at Lowood get crummy/inadequate food, little heat in the winter, and are treated in other awful ways — with some dying as a result. St. John Rivers is a more ethical religious figure in Bronte’s book, yet is a rather coldhearted man who displays a colonialist mentality in his desire to become a third-world missionary.

Nathan Price of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is a missionary in Africa — and that American is as hateful, racist, and sexist as many right-wing evangelicals and Republican politicians are today.

Then there’s the unnamed priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory who’s on the run from Mexican authorities. Not a totally bad guy, but he’s an alcoholic who fathered a child he barely sees. Hardly a religious role model.

The cast of James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain includes Gabriel Grimes, a mean-spirited minister who also fathered a child out of wedlock and left the mother to fend for herself.

Sinclair Lewis might be best known these days for his It Can’t Happen Here novel about a fascist elected U.S. president (sound familiar?). But another of his novels relevant to our times is Elmer Gantry, whose charismatic preacher title character is a hard-drinking, ambitious womanizer.

Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood stories is a jovial figure who loves his food and wine. Maybe not hypocritical, but certainly not as ascetic as one might expect from someone in a religious position.

In the drama realm, we have the supposedly religious title character in Moliere’s play Tartuffe. He’s actually a two-faced guy who tries to seduce a married woman.

Who are some fictional religious hypocrites you’ve found memorable?

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