A couple of months ago, Steve Kettmann wrote a cover story for GT about the resurgent popularity of George Orwell’s 1984, and what it means for our times. In many ways, his cover story this week feels like a follow-up to that story. It turns out 1984 is not the only book benefitting from our real-life dystopia. Look at sales numbers and you will find some very surprising trends. Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here was mostly forgotten until last November, at which time it became one of the hottest-selling books on Amazon. What’s it about, you ask? Oh, NBD, just the hypothetical rise of a fascist leader in the U.S. Same for John Steinbeck’s last book, The Winter of Our Discontent, published in 1961. Apparently its plot about a grocery-store clerk who executes a string of immoral ploys to increase his wealth and power—including turning an immigrant in to the feds to gain ownership of the man’s store—is considered by some to have some relevance to our current socio-political climate.
Kettmann’s article, however, is focused on the rise of contemporary fiction, as exemplified by the splash that Nathan Hill’s The Nix made last year. The Huffington Post called it “the satirical election novel that Trump’s America deserves.” Which is particularly interesting considering that the Donaldesque character many critics referenced was actually conceived long before Trump ran for office. Kettmann talks to Hill not only about these details of the book, but also about the writing process, and I for one found his insights illuminating.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
My Feet Sing of Thee
Re: “Sea Changer” (GT, 6/7): I remember moving to Santa Cruz in 1977, fresh out of high school, from Corona del Mar. My first job was working for O’Neill at his wetsuit factory on 41st Avenue, gluing wetsuits together. I remember Mike, his son, going into the back of the factory to work on booties. Soon he gave me a pair to try out. At first, they were hard to get used to, but my feet said, “I love these things.” I then got promoted to sewing up the suits, which included the animal skin. Jack would drop by occasionally to check things out, and everyone was in awe. He was a great man with lots of love who will be missed dearly. Aloha from Kauai.
Shopper’s Poet Corner
Thank you for your article on Peter McLaughlin and his poetry. I did not know his poetry. I knew his face from seeing him at Shopper’s Corner, the kind of recognition that is common in a town the size of Santa Cruz. I am richer now for having read his poems. They are brilliant, and I wanted you to know you had reached another reader.
Violence and Accountability
In the aftermath of the recent shooting of a Republican congressional representative by an irate Bernie Sanders supporter, I want to unequivocally condemn all acts of political violence by all people, whether on the left or the right. I also believe it is high time that all people involved in politics become more introspective and learn to deal with their own personal, emotional and psychological problems instead of just simply focusing their self-righteous rage on others. My own brother Wayne was shot and killed by the San Diego police in 1985 after waving a knife and threatening suicide, and although I still condemn police violence, my family was obviously severely dysfunctional despite being active in politics. Learning to confront one’s own flaws, vulnerabilities and unhealed grief and work on oneself is a courageous and responsible act. Politically apathetic people who are learning to be more compassionate and accountable in their personal lives and dealing mindfully with their pain and anger ironically are doing more to heal themselves and the world than the blamers and shamers involved in politics.
Erich J. Holden
Re: Dog Park Patrols
Let’s travel to Mitchell’s Cove after four o’clock from mid-county and see if the traffic allows you to cross this county in any reasonable amount of time to enjoy off-leash recreation with your dog. Santa Cruz County has a terrible ratio of dog parks to population for any city of this size in the nation.
Why are dog owners the bad guys? Why is off-leash dog recreation working in Carmel, Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach, Long Beach? Why is Santa Cruz County so regressive on this issue? Dog owners have less than 1 percent of that 29 miles of pristine coastline. Why does this article not explore solutions instead of repeating the same old story?
— Karen Simmons
It is not true that “Santa Cruz County has a terrible ratio of dog parks to population for any city of this size in the nation.” There are 260,000 people in Santa Cruz County, and 13 existing off-leash dog parks. That’s a level of service of five off-leash dog parks per 100,000 residents. According to the 2010 Trust for Public Lands Survey, that is the highest level of service for any jurisdiction in the United States other than Portland, Oregon, which has 5.8 dog parks per 100,000 people.
— Michael A. Lewis