Have I told you the story of someone who got in on one of these behind-the-scenes tours of the Newberry? The people on the tour were shown the collection the Newberry owns of the works of a Chicago publisher, including a pristine, obviously unread book of good, solid thickness about the joys of trout fishing in upstate New York. It dated to the mid-1880s.
She was impressed by the quick answer the guide had for a man who asked, “Why do you even bother to keep something like that on the shelves? Even if it’s the only copy in the world, no one’s ever likely to read it.”
The guide replied, gently, “We prefer not to edit culture.”
The very fact that the book had once existed was enough to justify its continued existence. It’s something books do for us: show us where we’ve been. The loss of a book means the loss of some tiny record of the human experience.
I was thinking about that this week, when I realized my summary of Kennedy Conspiracy books we see at the Book Fair had left out a very important category. There were dozens of Kennedy Conspiracy books published long before he was assassinated, and I didn’t mention how many of these we see.
You may not remember them: most of them disappeared after November 22, 1963. But John F. Kennedy, see, was not just conspired against; he was a conspirator himself. All through 1960, when he was running for President, book after book came out to tell us the True Facts which what we now call the Mainstream Media would not tell us. You see, Kennedy was a Catholic, and he was part of an evil conspiracy by the Roman Catholics to sell out the United States to a Foreign Power, namely, the Pope.
A secret hotline to the Vatican would be installed in the Oval Office the day he was elected: thus he could be given his marching orders. Catholic schools would get huge tax breaks, priests would be appointed to Cabinet positions, and the FBI would become a branch of the Inquisition. It was all there in these books which spilled the news about the Conspiracy. Pages bubbled with whole sentences in capital letters, and bristled with exclamation points, all to point up the True Facts. Were you aware, good citizen, that a lot of FOREIGNERS were CATHOLICS. In fact, a lot of CATHOLICS were FOREIGNERS. Is this what you wanted in the White House? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say.
The reason this came to my mind this week was that we recently had a bunch of books come in dealing with world politics. And among these were three good, solid books bristling with true facts about how wonderful it was that a dangerous terrorist had at last been put away for good. The world needed to know what a holocaust it had been spared now that Nelson Mandela was in prison. South Africa had been spared the brutal terrors that would have occurred had this conspirator been allowed to work his evil will.
Looking back on these two worldwide conspiracies and the books of True Facts which brought them to our attention is a bitter joke. I could always throw the books away. But that would be to edit culture. We can deny all we want to that we were ever at that place, at that time. But we were spotted, and the books are the witnesses.