Illiterature for the Masses
Statewide Special Election: Official Voter Information Guide; California Secretary of State. Paperback, 47 pages, free.
Now that the summer book season of easy reads, romance and adventure novels and mysteries is coming to a close, it's time to consider serious nonfiction. In this category, Al Franken's Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) still sits atop The New York TimesBestseller List. However, a new entry, California's Statewide Special Election: Official Voter Information Guide, is beginning to look like this season's most important new work of nonfiction.
The Guide begins with a brief section of expository chapters but soon enters its centerpiece, a unique realm of hope and idealism titled simply "Candidate Statements: Governor."
Brooke Adams, a 25-year-old sales executive from Orange County and the daughter of county Judge John "Pinocchio" Adams, opens "Statements" in an uneasy rebellious tone, undercutting The Guide's gravity with a slogan straight out of a community-college textbook: "Lead, follow or get out of the way."
From there, The Guide offers 104 separate yet related works—an intricate sociology that mirrors California and our country. Beware. The Guide's self-deprecation is fearless. There are glimpses of monsters and midgets, of inspiration and disillusionment. At times breezy, at other times garrulous, "Statements" is that rare work that seems ready to burst with primal energy.
Curiously hyphenated gubernatorial candidate Alex-St. James proclaims a strange dichotomy. "Once an Aspirant Catholic Priest," he says, "I support life from conception to the grave and the right to bear arms."
Vik S. Bajwa makes unique use of the surreal double-entendre in his sweet, shattered, haiku-like verse: "I am a recent immigrant like you, my 3 kids are native Californians, Kamal, and I thank God for being in California."
A candidate sure to warm the hearts of misogynists statewide, Warren Farrell bellows, "My recent research has uncovered why children raised by single dads do better than children raised by single moms; why men now earn less then women for the same work; why our sons now do worse in school than our daughters."
But then Rich Gosse sidesteps the hypothetically downtrodden gender, adding star power to the unmarraigables (as he courts the lonely vote). "Single adults are the Rodney Dangerfield of our society," he says. "'They can't get no respect!' I am the first candidate in California history to campaign on a Fairness for Singles Platform."
It's apparent that all is not simply affairs of state in The Guide. As Kevin Richter reveals, there may be minimalist metaphysical edge to life in Sacramento. Richter sums up his qualifications in two simple words: "I breathe."
Inhale, indeed. B.E. Smith brings insight not usually found in state-sponsored readings. "I spent two years in federal prison," he says, "because I grew medical marijuana." He hopes to free all current prisoners of the drug war.
But then the carefully crafted mood shifts. Trek Thunder Kelly journeys down a frightfully obscure side path. "Dear Voters, Please vote for me, thus breaking the Seventh Seal and incurring Armageddon."
Even so, Kelly's End Times proclamation is soon thoughtfully tempered by Diane Beall Templin's religious sentiments. "May the Lord give you the Wisdom of Solomon as you vote," she says. "I pray that the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, will guide me in all decisions, especially in selecting the best and brightest trusted servants to resolve the budget crises and heal our land. 2 Chronicles 7:14."
Bill Prady, on the other hand, "is an award-winning television comedy writer and producer who will bring the skills he's learned creating sitcom episodes to Sacramento. If elected, he pledges to solve all the state's problems in 22 minutes and 44 seconds with two commercial breaks and a hug at the end."
The mesh of opposing directions and literary techniques in The Guide is stunning. Yet, somehow, it holds together as a cohesive volume.
David Ronald Sams' choppy style is an exercise in postmodern, quick-cut thought-hopping: "There's too much violence in the media. I've won nine Emmy awards. This campaign should be about one issue: balancing the budget. We must think 'out of the box.' For example, I would offer naming rights to our freeways."
Kurt E. "Tachikaze" Rightmyer foreshadows his predicted tenure by explaining his curious middle name. "The name Tachikaze stands for 'wind from a sword stroke,'" he says. "As the leading middleweight of the California State Sumo Series and a serious, well-educated, nonpartisan candidate for governor, I will attack the 800-pond gorilla of big government."
At the conclusion of this masterful new postmodern work, we are left to reflect on candidate Ivan A. Hall's one-line entry, directed not only at the state of California, its gubernatorial candidates and American culture, but also at civilization itself.
"What's it all about?" he asks.
Whether the California Recall takes place on Oct. 7, The Guide will remain an important artifact in American literary, as well as regional, history. Remarkably, California's registered voters received this extremely collectable work of illiterature for free, courtesy of the state. For the moment, the rest of the world can bid for copies on eBay.
Visit Nathan Callahan at www.nathancallahan.com.
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