A lot of books get sent to our office. This is a wonderful thing, usually. It’s a privilege to get the galleys of highly anticipated books, and it’s one which we enjoy a great deal. Of course, not every book is for every reader, and there have been plenty of times when we’ve received books that we have no intention of reading or assigning for review. However, it is relatively rare that we are sent a book that actually offends every single one of our sensibilities. (Reader, we’re hard to offend, we really are.)
Today, though, we received one such book. Titled 9/11: An Astrological Tribute to September 11, it possibly wins the prize of most fucked up thing we have ever been sent (and, no joke, we were once sent a pair of disposable paper underwear). Here are the ten things about this book that most pissed us off:
- The Title: Seriously? Of all the ways to pay tribute to the victims of September 11th, astrology is how you choose to do it? Gross.
- The Table of Contents: The entire book, save for a one-and-a-half page intro, is comprised entirely of listing victims’ names. Pages 9-32 arranges the victims according to astrological sign, and pages 33-129 lists them alphabetically. How is this a book? I don’t know.
- The Opening Quote: The editor of this book, Louis E.V. Nevear, repurposes a widely used E.B. White passage from Here Is New York, in which White writes, “The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible.” It’s a haunting passage from a beautiful essay. Its inclusion in this piece of crap is offensive, if only because it’s the only worthwhile writing in the whole book.
- The Introduction: It turns out that the entire conceit of this ridiculous book is that the question most on the minds of New Yorkers following the attack was which ZIP code the victims lived in. Which, let me tell you, was actually not really the most pressing thing on most people’s minds. Especially since, frankly, while I understand the sentiment attached to some ZIP codes (though I’ve not been a resident since childhood, 10025 for life, you know?), it is specious to pretend that people’s desire to know more about the victims extended to pettily categorizing them by ZIP code.
- “Were Their Destinies In the Stars?”: So, here’s where it gets really fucked up. Nevear asks if the victims’ destinies were “in the stars,” and wonders “Is there cosmic sense that explains why the individuals who died were destined to die that terrible day?” And while Nevear concludes, “Who can tell?” I would like to chime in with a resounding NO. Fuck this.
- “What If I Told You That Leos Were Associated with Zealotry?”: The unbelievably tenuous connections that Nevear attempts to make between the star signs of the victims and hijackers are facile and insulting.(“What are the chances that three of the innocents slain were named Michael Lynch?” Pretty fucking good if you know a single thing about the demographic makeup of the NYPD and FDNY.)
- Thornton Wilder: Nevear attempts to make his book analogous with Thornton Wilder’s novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Don’t drag Thornton Wilder into this. He doesn’t deserve that, even if he is tangentially responsible for countless shitty high school productions of Our Town.
- “Hijacker”: In the part of the book where the victims are arranged according to astrological sign, they are each listed by their first names only. Except for the hijackers, who are simply listed as “hijacker.” It’s all just so awful, we don’t even want to joke about it. We really don’t.
- 911.Astrology@gmail.com: Nevear has set up an email account for queries related to the book. It is sort of amazing to us that this email account was available. We hate it.
- Its Existence: Yeah, probably the number one—not number ten, but what are you going to do—most fucked up thing about this book is that it exists at all. Sure, it’s clearly self-published, so it’s nothing more than a vanity project. And, yes, Nevear claims that all royalties from the sale of the book will go to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. But there is not really any reason for this book to exist other than as something to be laughed at, which is fucking terrible because this is far worse than any cheese plate sold at the 9/11 Museum Gift Shop. This book is reductive and nonessential and attempts to capitalize on one of the worst tragedies this city has ever faced. And there is no excuse for that. None at all.
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