Mansplanation Nation

Heather Havrilesky in Bookforum:

Article00THERE'S SOMETHING endearing about people who loudly proclaim their love of books. Forget the suspicions kicked up by trumpeting something as universal as “books” as one’s true love (also loves: baby animals, pizza, oxygen); forget the anachronism of loving physical objects in space and not some “long read” floating in the ether; forget the self-congratulatory tone that hints at a closetful of book-festival tote bags emblazoned with Shakespeare’s face. Proudly championing books still counts as a true act of courage, a way of raging against the dying of the page. In embracing the book as an object, a concept, a signifier, and a religion, though, one often forgets the texts that answer to the name of “book” these days. A perusal of the best-seller lists of the past two decades indicates that the most popular books might more accurately be described as billionaire-themed smut, extended blast of own-horn tooting, Sociology 101 textbook with sexy one-word title, unfocused partisan rant, 250-page-long stand-up routine, text version of Muppets Most Wanted with self-serious humans where the Muppets should be, folksy Christian sci-fi/fantasy, pseudohistorical rambling by non-historian, and simpleton wisdom trussed up in overpriced yoga pants.

And if we narrow our focus to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times’ hardcover-nonfiction best-seller list in the twenty years since Bookforumwas first published,we discover an increasingly shrill, two-decade-long cry for help from the American people. As I Want to Tell You by O. J. Simpson (1995) and The Royals by Kitty Kelley (1997) yield to Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore (2003) and Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward (2004), you can almost see the support beams of the American dream tumbling sideways, the illusions of endless peace and rapidly compounding prosperity crumbling along with it. The leisurely service-economy daydreams of the late ’90s left us plenty of time to spend Tuesdays with Morrie and muse about The Millionaire Next Door or get worked up about The Day Diana Died. But such luxe distractions gave way to The Age of Turbulence, as our smug belief in the good life was crushed under the weight of 9/11, the Great Recession, and several murky and seemingly endless wars. Suddenly the world looked Hot, Flat, and Crowded, with the aggressively nostalgic waging an all-out Assault on Reason. In such a Culture of Corruption, if you weren’t Going Rogue you inevitably found yourself Arguing with Idiots.

More here.