Friday, August 25, 2006

The conundrum of George Bush's summer reading list

Much has been made of George Bush allegedly reading Camus' L'Étranger on his hols. I must admit that my frosty opinion of Bush thawed a micronotch when I heard this news. I enjoyably trudged through La Peste in the original French for A level and found it very rewarding. I also read the English translation of L’Étranger.

So I got a bit misty-eyed when I read that Bush had allegedly read L’Étranger. I was a little bit suspicious when the White House spokesman added that "He found it an interesting book and a quick read." A quick read? Except the whole point of Camus is that his books are on several levels of allegory and....oh what's the use?!

The spokesman also said: "We discussed the origins of existentialism." But he said he didn't want to go into that conversation too deeply - I bet he didn't!

Anyway, my suspicions were further excited when I read the rest of George Bush's alleged Summer reading list, according to the White House press office. This is it:

Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald
The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald
After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leaderby Brian Latell
Challenger Park by Stephen Harrigan
Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser
Finding Fish: A Memoirby Antwone Quenton Fisher
Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Differentby Gordon S. Wood
The Bridge at Andau by James Michener
Flash for Freedom by George MacDonald Fraser
Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
Through a Glass, Darkly : A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History by Craig L. Symonds
The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruthby Leigh Montville
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin
The Messengerby Daniel Silva
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
Beach Road by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge
Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power by Richard Carwardine
Polio: An American Storyby David Oshinsky
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural by Ronald C. White, Jr.
Promised Land, Crusader State by Walter McDougall
Cinnamon Skin: Travis McGee Mysteries by John D. MacDonald
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Come off it! He's hasn't read all that lot!!! The clue is in the last two. Macbeth and Hamlet. To read through them and make any sort of sense of them you really need to read through an accompanying commentary or textual analysis. The idea that George Bush has read through both of them on holiday is just absurd! Oh, we're back to Camus again.


  1. I think you are missing the point of this clever piece of spin. Here we all are arguing over whether Bush did or did not read certain books. Meanwhile thousands are dying in Iraq. Oh and we have accepted implicitly that he can read!

  2. Au contraire my little Bangkok Ballsy, I do not accept this spin - my point is that he cannot possibly have read even a fraction of this list and therefore it is bunkum. Therefore I am rebutting the inherent message in the spin, which is, that despite coming across as a bumbling idiot, George Bush is a towering intellectual who can speed read heavyweight classics (and "Flashman at the charge") and therefore his decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and support Israel's disproportionate action in Lebnanon must have had a profound logic and necessity which hitherto we mere mortals had missed.

    Indeed, there has always been the under-current with Bush - the spin if you like - that despite coming across as a unusually brainy chimpanzee and reading "My Pet Goat" at the moment of one of his country's worst danger 9/11 - he is actually extremely smart.

    I have now come to the conclusion - and this sham of a reading list has finally convinced me - that history will tend to go with the "chimp" analysis.

  3. Perhaps if he started at the first of the Flashman series, his decision to invade Afganistan would have been more considered.

  4. Thank you for that very informed comment. (I watched the TV programmes, I didn't read the books)