After completing the very lengthy book, The Elven I decided that I would give myself a bit of a break from fiction and long books and read a few short non-fiction books. The three books I read over this past week covered three rather unconnected topics. Politics, Advertising and Housecleaning. All the books had their merits, but I figured that I’d provide my thoughts on all three of them in one blog post.
Just a reminder, I don’t give ratings to non-fiction books no matter how terrible or wonderful they may be.
The first short book that I read is called On Tyranny; Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. This book is essentially an essay with it’s intended audience being graduate students (or that’s at least how it was being marketed at the book store where I picked it up from). This essay, at the title suggests, is comprised of “twenty lessons” that a savvy youngster should be aware of while embarking out into a world in which “the [current] president” is now leader of. Drawing heavily on practices carried out by early fascist governments, Snyder tries to draw parallels that come across rather flimsy.
Let’s get something out of the way – I am in no way a fan of Trump, but I am not nearly naive as Timothy Snyder appears to be to think that we live in some sort of political vacuum where Trump seized power essentially out of no where then gave himself endless tyrannical power. No, Trump is the by-product of an ever evolving tyrannical government, with an executive branch that enjoys handing itself more and more arbitrary power. I recall numerous books like Snyder’s coming out during the Bush (W.) years. The End of America by Naomi Wolf would be a good example (and her warning is composed FAR better than Snyders.) There were also similar books published in regards to Obama’s tyrannical powers during the 8 years he served as well.
The reason these books are published is because people have recognized that the executive branch of the US government is just WAY TOO POWERFUL for it’s own good. We are comfortable with that power when *our* side has it, but when *their* side has it, fears of a dictatorship and other alarmist writings emerge.
Snyder seems completely oblivious to institutions that were set up during previous administrations that are enabling the current president. Snyder complains about the loss of an individuals privacy yet seems oblivious to what the NSA has been up to. He warns of para-military police forces yet doesn’t mention the Department of Homeland Security at all – nor how completely Third-Reichish in origins that is. Snyder then frets about how Russia likes to undermine different democracies around the globe yet seems to be blind to the USA’s own role in undermining democracies around the globe.
In short – despite the FEW valid arguments this book makes, it’ll leave you more ignorant when you finish it than when you started it. I do not recommend this particular waste of paper. IF I rated non-fiction books, this might receive a half star because I enjoyed the books formatting, and that’s about it.
Following that book I read another recently published essay called The End of Advertising by Andrew Essex. Essex is a former executive who worked for a major advertising company and in this short book he offers that unless that industry discovers a new approach to advertising, that industry will meet its demise.
Although this small book clocks in at just around 200 pages, the first half reads almost like a memoir as Essex attempts to explain why he believes advertising as we know it is about to die unless it rethinks its place in the world and goes through a renaissance. His belief that advertising is about to end was arrived at because Essex learned about a new technology called AdBlock and realized that people could now opt-out of watching advertisements and, in fact, many people were. He in fact had also decided to opt-out of viewing advertisements and found it to be quite free-ing.
Essex however makes a suggestion for the advertising industry that, for me, seems like the set-up for the movie Idiocracy, which would make it alarmingly fitting for the current world in which we live. Since local governments are having such a difficult time maintaining the infrastructure in different communities, why not have large corporations do it instead?
Yes – that is what Essex proposes in regards to ‘saving’ advertising. Potholes in your road? Here’s Pepsi-Cola to the rescue! Now your roads are blue, red and refreshing. Your cities water infrastructure is crumbling, lets have Gatorade or Powerade bid on who will fix it, ’cause either way, ELECTROLYTES FOR EVERYONE!
Anyway, despite the authors proposal on how to fix advertising, I do recommend giving this quick book a read because it will offer insights into an industry that we generally only get to see (and block) the products of.
And finally this week I read Other People’s Dirt by Louise Rafkin. This book I checked out of the library after having quite a dreary day and badly desiring to go for a walk. After staring blankly at numerous shelves of books and still finding nothing of real interest, I happened up this short work that, for whatever reason, felt just right.
Other People’s Dirt was published in 1998 and is about Rafkin’s ‘adventures’ as a housecleaner. The book is somewhere between memoir and investigative journalist as Rafkin explores different aspects of the world of 1990’s housecleaning.
Initially the book talks about Rafkin’s independent work as a housecleaner in which she highlights what she likes and dislikes about this particular profession. The book begins with Rafkins dream of one day becoming a spy and, in a way, how she sort-of is one while she housecleans. She tells about how she learns so much about other people’s lives simply by the hints of the lives they lead within their own homes.
Each chapter covers different aspects of the world of housecleaning, from housecleaning as sexual fetish to housecleaning as religious practice and numerous other variations in between. In one part Rafkin joins a commercial cleaning company where she feels she is severely underpaid for the work she is doing. At another point she attempts to join a woman who cleans up the remains at crime scenes inside homes.
The part of the book that I found the most important however is Rafkin’s look into the life of the woman who once cleaned her childhood home. This particular chapter where Rafkin goes back and learns about Lupita’s life, is the chapter in the book that, for me, humanized the author for me because before this, the book felt like a disjointed examination of housecleaning experienced by an author who was difficult to relate to.
The reason that I’m pointing out the year in which this book was published is because, without consciously doing it, this book offers a real-life glimpse into what life was like just before the dawning of the internet and smart-phone age. There are numerous scene’s that highlight this, but one in particular that stood out to me was the small two line part where Rafkin is discussing what fake vacuuming is, and she says (and I have to paraphrase here) that it’s when you turn on a vacuum and let it run while you sit down and read People magazine. All I could think of is that in today’s world, you’d be pulling out your phone, getting on the homeowners wi-fi and begin going through various apps.
So, in short this book also served as a time-capsule of sorts. I do recommend it primarily just for the unique insights it offers into this world that we may not think too much about.
I checked out one other book from the library – but I think that one will get a post all to itself due to it’s subject matter.