So far, I have no evidence that the President has seen this post. I'm shocked. I mean, it has his name in it and everything. Perhaps we need keywords.
This is not a political blog. Don't worry.
If there's one man (other than Muammar Gadaffi, who lost his country and can't even decide how to spell his own name) who really needs some cheering up these days, it must be President
Barack Obama. I mean, here's a guy who started out on such a high, good feelings, hope and, you know, change, and look how things have ended up so far. Some accomplishments, yes, but things are still a little challenging as we speak.
Imagine how he feels: The nation's (and, to be fair, the world's) economy is not exactly in great shape. Wars are being fought. A new political season is beginning, and his poll numbers (which are, at this point in time, meaningless) are not exactly sparkling. Here's a guy who truly must require a little bolstering.
And so I begrudge the President absolutely nothing in his choice of a time to go on vacation. Anybody who thinks he shouldn't take 10 days off and doesn't complain about Congress taking 30 days off simply isn't paying attention.
But then comes this story, which chronicles the President's reading material--other than the work stuff he still has to carry around with him--during his "off days." And I have a message for Mr. Obama, which I sincerely hope he will see and take in the spirit in which it is being offered.
Mr. President: Lighten up.
Honestly. I understand that your job requires you to think deep thoughts, and that is your nature to begin with. But I got depressed just looking at the covers of the books you're reading. Not a smile in the bunch, and you're going to read them all in 10 days? That's pretty much a prescription for a cranky leader of the free world, and who benefits from that?
You see, Mr. President, I believe in the rejuvenative, therapeutic power of comedy. I think a good laugh does more for you than a ton of briefing memos (but keep reading those--I'm not suggesting you stop!) and "serious" novels. I think an amused mind is one that is more creative, more active, more useful than one burdened with problems both real--and you've got all of ours on top of yours to worry about--and fictional.
Those fictional ones are the problems you can easily avoid. You need to do some REAL light reading, something that will lift your spirits and get you ready for the long slog ahead.
So I am taking it upon myself to make a few modest suggestions for your vacation reading. Don't worry; it's not too late. Robin can have some of these to your Martha's Vineyard retreat in a flash. Others, well, I'm betting Bunch of Grapes has some, or can special order. You're the President.
Suggested Reading for a Laugh or Two (Presidential Edition):
1. In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, by Jean Shepherd. This collection of stories disguised as a novel is not only a nostalgic--but certainly not rose-colored--look at an earlier era, it's also hilarious. Shepherd could write like a dream and had total recall. If anyone asks, you can say you're reading it because the movie "A Christmas Story" was taken from one of its chapters.
2. Tilt-A-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein. Introducing the stand-up, unassailable, absolutely perfect Officer John Ceepak and his slacker-ish but funny partner Danny Boyle, Grabenstein's first crime novel provides a strong mystery/thriller with the unmistakable New Jersey wit of its narrator. You need some more Jersey in you, Mr. President--take it from Ceepak and Danny.
3. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo, by Joe Adamson. I know; it's non-fiction and a professional biography at that. But Adamson writes about the Marx Brothers with such wit and in so close to the team's own style (very Groucho-influenced) that it's the fastest 443 pages you'll ever read. You can tell people you're boning up on military strategy by studying DUCK SOUP. No. Wait. Better not tell them that.
4. Flanagan's Run, by Tom McNab. Not strictly speaking a "comedy," in that it's not going for laughs, McNab's tall tale of an early-20th-Century footrace from Los Angeles to New York is a rollicking ride full of interesting characters, hairbreadth escapes, period detail and, just in case you're feeling homesick, a stop in Chicago. You won't laugh, but you'll smile. A lot.
5. Slugfest, by Rosemary Harris. Set not too far from where you are now, in Manhattan (and not the usual Connecticut setting), Harris's latest is a little more laugh-packed than her previous ones, and they weren't exactly downers, either. You can read her previous books on subsequent vacations, or on one of those nights when you inadvertantly watch Fox News and can't sleep (happens to me, too).
6. America: The Book, by Jon Stewart and the Writing Staff of the Daily Show. I know he's taken a few shots at you recently, but you have to admit, Stewart is without question the best political satirist at work today, and his "textbook" on the country is not only a dense, riotous parody, it also has some actual information you can use to wow them at cabinet meetings (the naked pictures of Supreme Court justices are probably best left unmentioned, though).
7. I could also recommend A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, but it's not the history of the Tea Party you'd probably expect from the title, and I've never thought it was all that funny, to be honest.
Well, that ought to be enough to start with. But if you're REALLY in the need for a laugh, well, I'd be an idiot not to recommend that you click here or here. If you like the books you find there, please let everyone know. If not, well, say so, anyway. I don't mind selling books to Republicans.
Best of luck, Mr. President--Have a great vacation, and come back recharged!