Barack Obama’s rather unremarkable summer reading list (see below) has sparked some VERY IMPORTANT debate.
The National Review‘s Tevi Troy criticized the list for being too heavy on fiction. “Room is another well-received novel, but it is about a mother and child trapped in an 11-by-11-foot room,” he wrote. “This claustrophobic adventure does not strike me as the right choice for someone trying to escape the perception that he is trapped in a White House bubble.” We apologize for even linking to this.
Another National Review commentator asked a question that was running through our minds as well: “Are We Really Parsing the President’s Summer Reading List Now? asks Josh Barro. He calls Mr. Troy’s analysis “silly”: “If the president wants to read novels about people trapped in little rooms on his down time between intelligence briefings, he should go ahead.”
But then, in a second posting, Mr. Troy strikes back: “Of course presidents can and should read fiction. They can read whatever they like. But they also need to recognize that analysts will look at presidential reading selections for what they say about the president and his state of thinking.”
And analyze they do: at The Daily Beast, Michael Medved asserts his support for the president’s advocacy of fiction. “The interest in fiction may also reassure the aesthetically inclined among his supporters that even in a period of tight budgets for arts organizations, the president recognizes the importance of creative imagination.” Aesthetes everywhere slept better in their cardboard boxes last night knowing that Mr. Obama cares about their creative imaginations.
Salon avers that Mr. Obama does not read enough women: “Now the fact that the president of the United States apparently doesn’t read women writers is not the greatest crisis facing the arts, much less the nation — but it’s upsetting nevertheless.”
The Jewish Week thinks Mr. Obama chose the wrong Jewish novel in David Grossman’s To the End of the Land. “If Obama wanted a good Jewish book to read on vacation, I would have steered him elsewhere,” writes Eric Herschthal. “The mind of an Israeli novelist is markedly different from a general Jewish American one.”
The Washington Post notes that Mr. Obama’s selections have not seen a significant rise in sales. Lover of the creative imagination he may be, but tastemaker? Apparently not.