Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Girl You Know It’s True: Anonymous Novels about Famous People

Today marks the release of “O: A Presidential Novel” an anonymously written novel about the 2012 presidential election (Obama loses—spoiler alert!). In most ways, the book appears to be an echo of the 1996 novel “Primary Colors,” which was an anonymously written novelized version of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign (these types of books are called romans à clef, for those keeping score at home). The anonymous author is a neat trick to get buzz around a book, but is inevitably disappointing—remember when you found out who Deep Throat was? Of course not, nobody does. But it was W. Mark Felt. W. Mark Felt. So don’t start counting down the days until we learn that the author of “O” was some journalist nobody’s ever heard of.

But that does not mean “O” is without value or part of a valuable and long tradition of turning real people’s existence into fictional narratives that stretches from “Citizen Kane’s” depiction of William Randolph Hearst as Charles Foster Kane to “The Simpsons”’ depiction of Cliff Huxtable as Dr. Julius Hibbert. And so while “O” is not likely to be the definitive account of the Obama presidency or the 2012 election, it seems like an easy enough way to have a bestselling book without having to actually be a good writer. And while President Obama is a good choice for a book that arbitrarily projects off into the future on the basis of very little evidence, there are other options out there.

S: Alaska’s Sweetheart

A tale of the 2012 presidential election, “S” tells the story of a plucky young girl from Alaska who seeks her party’s nomination for president. Sarah, our protagonist, loses horribly because even wide majorities of her own party view her as unfit for office. Sample line: “Though Sarah always claimed God had told her to run for president, her campaign quickly fell apart when she was tape-recorded blaming him for her Iowa loss, shouting to nobody in particular, ‘I praise you 24/7!!!!!! And is this how you do me!!!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How???!!! I’ll never forget this!! Ever!!! Thanks though.’”

J: Bieber’s World

Upon entering his early twenties, onetime teen idol (that’s what he is, right?) Justin Bieber finds his once enthusiastic fan base of twelve-year-old girls has abandoned him for a younger, floppier-haired Canadian YouTube sensation. Realizing that his only hope for survival as a star is to go on a vision quest, he travels deep into the woods where he can speak with his spiritual godfathers, New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, Ricky Martin and NSYNC’s Joey Fatone. Unfortunately there really isn’t anything that mediocre, not-that-talented teen idols can do besides develop lifelong drug problems that will someday allow them to appear on Celebrity Rehab.

T: A Cult of Personality

A slightly over-the-hill movie star finds solace in a bizarre religion that many regard as the cultish fantasies of an insane science fiction writer. Somehow, audiences don’t seem to care, and Tom continues to make generic action movies that nobody is ever excited to see well into the distant future before retiring from acting upon receiving a promotion to the post of Chairman of the Church of Scientology, at which point it becomes the most popular religion in the world.

O: A Presidential Novel

After seeing her handpicked candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama rise to the presidency, Oprah Winfrey beams with pride and is pleased that her endorsement proved enough to singlehandedly convince enough Americans to go vote for him. But when he fails to fulfill all of his campaign promises, she decides that she will take matters into her own hands and seek the office herself. Running outside the traditional bounds of the two-party system, Oprah finds a groundswell of support at her back when public opinion turns against sitting president Barack Obama and no enthusiasm can be generated on behalf of über-boring Republican nominee Tim Pawlenty.

America begins to believe it has made a horrible mistake when Oprah threatens to invade Brazil if it does not return the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, but Oprah quickly assuages all such concerns of her incompetence by giving aromatic soaps out to all of America.

Thanks for reading these columns—this was my last one ever. Send any comments to jcarr1@stanford.edu.