Friday, September 01, 2006

Ironic Elitism

A few weeks ago, I mostly ignored all the silly blog posts attacking President Bush's claim that he had read "The Stranger" by Albert Camus. The silliest of those silly posts argued that it couldn't be possible since the book was too sophisticated or complex.

Anyone who wrote such a thing must never have read Camus' book, which compared to other works like "The Myth of Sisyphus" or "The Plague," was written in a more simplistic, stark Hemingwayesque manner which would be accessible to most levels of readers.

It's a book that could be easily read and understood by a junior high school student, and though I don't think Bush would be able to do much more than grunt and say "good book" I wouldn't scoff at his claim to have read a book that most learned people could knock off in less than a few hours.

But this "three Shakespeares" thing is even stupider.

Here's a link to the video at Huffington Post if you missed this non-news.

"I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you ought to try Camus," Bush told NBC. "I also read three Shakespeares."

There's absolutely nothing wrong or even extraordinary in referring to the Bard's works (or plays in general) in such a way, so I can only assume that the mockers are less literate than they claim to be.

Jack O'Brien won a Tony for directing Henry IV on Broadway in 2004, and let's just say he knows a thing or two about Shakespeare.

"It says everything about the Globe that in the midst of doing these three Shakespeares in repertory – an enormous project – that we are able to do a completely new work," O'Brien told the San Diego Union-Tribune a couple of years ago.

I could post dozens and dozens of links to such examples, but go ahead and Google "'three shakespeares' -Bush" if you'd like to see for yourself.

And if Laura Bush slips copies of "A Doll's House" or "An Enemy of the People" underneath the door the next couple of times that the president is "occupied" then it will be perfectly okay and kosher if Bush says he read "two Ibsens," as well.

Anyway, my advice would be to cut the political literary criticism unless you know what the hell you're talking about, because there's nothing worse than illiterate elitism.


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