Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Read up! Fight back!"

I've never actually thought of reading as a revolutionary act but perhaps that's what we have come to in this time of know-nothingness. At least someone in San Francisco seems to think so.

A mystery benefactor there has been paying for copies of 1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson to be given away to interested readers with the admonition "Read up! Fight back!" 

On Friday night, 50 copies of 1984 were bought from Booksmith, a bookstore in the Haight-Ashbury district, and placed on a table with a sign reading: "Read up! Fight back! A mystery benefactor has bought these copies of 1984 for you if you need one." The books were quickly snapped up, and then the anonymous donor bought copies of Atwood's and Larson's books, which also quickly disappeared.

The bookseller has said that this random act has inspired others to follow suit in this "fruitful, constructive form of resistance."

Since the beginning of the new administration in Washington, Atwood's and Orwell's dystopian classics have raced up best seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic, and earlier this week The Handmaid's Tale reached the number one spot on Amazon's list. 

Obviously, Atwood's book strikes a chord with many readers, especially women, given the political atmosphere of the day. A theocratic dictatorship where women once again have the status of chattel does not seem as far-fetched as it once did. Moreover, the book's sales are probably aided by the fact that many of us are looking forward to the TV adaptation of the book which will be airing in April.

I do find it heartening that people are turning to books in trying to understand what is happening and how we got to be where we are. Perhaps we can read our way to a more enlightened future, to a government that respects knowledge and the law.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent idea, Dorothy! And I am encouraged by the fact that these books are on the bestseller list. I have found myself quoting Orwell so many times lately, even on Facebook posts. I read "The Handmaid's Tale" for the first time last summer, not realizing at the time how relevant it would soon become. I've never read Larson's book, though, so I will definitely put that on my reading list. I keep thinking of this line from "1984": "If there is hope, it lies in the proles." Maybe enough people will finally become disgusted enough with what is happening in this country and make their voices heard to change things in Washington.

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    1. We can only hope so, Rose. I'm reading as fast as I can!

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  2. For 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale, I read years ago and should reread. I have not read In the Garden of Beasts yet, but it is on my "To read" list. I should get going. Resistance can be small things - small, but powerful, and I loved reading of this action.

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    1. It is a positive and constructive action that we can all take part in.

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  3. I too have been reading like mad as it seems to be the best way to fight back, for me. That and posting about what I read. I have read all three books you mention here. What a cool thing that mystery benefactor did!

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    1. Isn't it amazing? Adversity provokes creative responses from some people.

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