Some Authors Will Always Be With Us | Newberry

Some Authors Will Always Be With Us

The readers of this column will probably already be aware of the death at 91 of Judith Krantz, whose novels dominated the bestseller lists of the late seventies and early eighties. She is an inspiration to all aspiring novelists everywhere, as she wrote her first novel, Scruples, simply to prove to her husband that she could not write good fiction. Critics claim she succeeded in proving this, but that did not prevent the sale of millions of copies of the book. That and her second novel, Princess Daisy, which sold even better, will certainly be found at this year’s Book Fair (and probably every Book Fair for the next twenty years.)

You might have missed, however, the passing of an author, also 91, whose books—well, book—can also be found in quantity at every Book Fair, possibly in even greater quantity than Judith Krantz’s works. This was Charles A. Reich, whose classic celebration of the American counterculture, The Greening of America, appeared in 1970. The paperback edition, judge by the number of copies we see every year, must have sold a thousand times as many copies as Princess Daisy, and was a staple in college bookstores, as well as required reading for young politically-minded college students. A professor of law, he wrote further books, one of which helped redefine the concept of personal property (are benefit payments your property, or just a favor someone can take away at any time?) He is mentioned in the autobiographies of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

He must not be confused with Wilhelm Reich, whose books also appear in reasonable quantity at the Book Fair. Wilhelm Reich was a polarizing character in the history of psychiatry, who traveled around Austria in a mobile clinic in the years before World War II. This is the man who gave us the term “sexual revolution”, and his later years, when he identified the concept of God as what he called Orgone, led to a great deal of discussion. A number of people claimed his accumulators, devices which helped an individual harness orgone, had done them immense good, but the government of the United States (where he moved just before World War II; his The Mass Psychology of Fascism made things unhealthy for him in Europe) felt it was just a new form of health fraud. He did not help his case by declaring that we were under attack by UFOs or with his machine to battle negative orgone, which he also said could make it rain. The FDA coaxed one of his employees to send an orgone accumulator through the mail after the issuing of a Federal injunction against this, and he went to prison amid a major burning of his books. The American Civil Liberties Union protested the burning of the books, which annoyed Reich because they didn’t say anything at all about the government smashing as many orgone accumulators as it could. Like Charles Reich, he was remembered in the writings of a number of people he influenced, especially Norman Mailer. Characters based on him appear in a few science fiction movies, largely as villains.

These two Reichs must not be confused with William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which ALSO appears in mass quantities at each Book Fair. (It’s a big book; if you want one, try to come early and get the hardcover.) Edward R. Murrow sent his to report on conditions in Hitler’s Berlin, though he eventually did most of his work from the safer environs of Vienna, where he stayed until 1940. Being that close to events gave him material for a goodly number of books, from Berlin Diary (1941) to This Is Berlin (1999) but it was his Rise and Fall (1960) which cemented his reputation, and which is still a go-to book for anyone studying that pivotal era in world history.

You will find most of Shirer’s books in History, while Charles Reich will be found in Political Science and/or Sociology, and Wilhelm Reich often moves into Sci Fi/New Age from Psychology. Oh, and Judith Krantz will be in Romance. And I think that’s where you’ll find these authors reliably every year for some time to come.

Add new comment