Mr. Green from The Company Brings Bloodshed to the Republic.

Author:Normey, Rob
Position:Gore Vidal's novel "Dark Green, Bright Red"
 
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George Orwell famously sought to make writing on politics into an art. It's important to remember that he wasn't the only one. So too did a radically different kind of writer, the cocksure American Gore Vidal. I bring up Orwell because I continue to ponder the notion that his dystopian novel 1984 time and again serves as the go-to book for citizens in the West looking for insights into ever more frightening examples of the abuse of political and legal power. Once again, this year the novel rocketed up the bestseller charts as the enormity of the election of Donald Trump began to manifest itself. Truckloads of the book were on their way to people's homes the day after they witnessed Trump spinmeister and spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway refer to a false claim made by the Trump team about the size of the inauguration crowd as "alternate facts."

Much as I admire Orwell as an essayist and early exemplar of participatory journalism, I would like to tell friends and fellow lovers of literature that, while 1984 works well within the parameters of the dystopian novel of ideas genre, it has some very real limitations as a warning and a guide to contemporary political trends. Sure, Orwell was able to brilliantly depict the means by which totalitarian or, at least authoritarian rulers could maintain a firm grip on power. But other aspects of the novel seem to me to be quite remote from what we witnessed in the years after its 1949 publication. In the decade after the novel appeared, did the United States and Britain would become the drab, joyless societies depicted in the novel? Then or now, do they appear on the verge of becoming totalitarian or even authoritarian states run by a band of ruthless rulers hidden behind the stern visage of Big Brother? It seems to me that as the 1950s advanced and the American economy roared along, it developed in manner quite unlike the dark world Orwell envisioned. The bulk of the citizenry were no doubt too distracted by all the bright new shiny toys and sheer abundance of goods on offer to need to be controlled in the heavy-handed way Orwell dramatizes.

I consider that the novels of Gore Vidal capture important aspects of the postwar world that would soon be effortlessly dominated by the United States in the West, facing off in the Cold war with the Soviet Union, which had developed its own form of imperialism. An early novel of Vidal's, Dark Green, Bright Red gives a sense of the way in which the author's political...

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