Eighteen Reasons to be Scared
by Jan Baughman

One of the best things to read on Sunday is the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers List. While it may not be completely unbiased, it gives an up-to-date glimpse into the psyche of our populous. Currently, we are in a sorry state; the threat of a new millennium has not inspired us to greater heights, nor to philosophize about the meaning of our existence; in fact, the only reflective book on the list is about understanding guilt and forgiveness. We are already seeking redemption for our ignorance. There's a book that is becoming quite tiresome, entitled "Emotional Intelligence". Having lost our intellectual intelligence, we are grasping for other means to improve our global competitiveness. The only other book about ideas is one on modern liberalism by Robert Bork. An objective treatise, no doubt.

Most of the books on this week's list are about our present-day heroes. The number-one book is "The Dilbert Principle". If we are better off than we were four (or eight, or twelve) years ago, it must be because we now have a means to laugh at our miserable working conditions...

There are two books about O.J.; one by Bugliosi of Manson fame, another by someone I would undoubtedly know, had I watched the trial. When, oh when will O.J. just return to T.V. commentating? He was easier to ignore that way. There are also two books about Clinton. Any book about a President written while he still holds office is destined for mediocrity. We need to wait about fifty years before we can put this presidency into its proper perspective.

There's a book about the Pope's role in the fall of communism. This may be worth buying as it will probably be the last well-researched book before he succumbs to his mystery wraths and we are inundated by unauthorized biographies laden with papal fallibility.

Dominique Moceanu wrote an autobiography, with some help. She's much too young to have anything meaningful to say. And, anyway, who cares??? We had enough of gymnastics and the media's manipulation of it to last a lifetime. Longer than her lifetime, at least.

Lewis and Clark are making a comeback, most certainly a reflection on our desire to escape this life and time to some new, uncharted territory. There's also a book about Lucille Ball, noted to be a "posthumous autobiography" (perhaps the pope helped her on this one). Lucy is not the female role model we need right now; ladies, please DO NOT buy this book.

One favorite is a book about JFK and Jackie's marriage. No doubt an insider's account designed to reassure the baby boomers that their not-so-idealic marriages are, in fact, the stuff of Camelot. Cheaper than counseling.

I see that Frank McCourt has an autobiography -- I think I'll start mine for next week's Swans article. There's a book about our best friend the dog, one about our deepest fascination, a mysterious death, and one about shipwrecks (this one fulfills both the escapist/explorer and death obsession facets: a must-read!)

Finally, debuting this week at number fifteen of eighteen, is a book on the Classics of Western Literature. Why not just buy the Cliff Notes? Or, better yet, read the books themselves, and put them back on the best-seller list where they belong.

Published October 16, 1996
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