Glenn Beck’s new novel

Early reviews of Glenn Beck’s The Overton Window are in and, considering their sources, they are predictably hostile. Here’s Media Matters’ Simon Maloy at the Huffington Post:

There is one thing The Overton Window does not lack — irony, albeit of the unintentional variety. This novel represents Glenn Beck’s vision of the world as it would be if it operated according to his rules, and he lays out the scenario by which he believes the “progressive” movement can undermine the country. Given that the result is nonsensical, poorly envisioned, and even more poorly executed, one has to think that the only way Beck’s worldview could be considered plausible is if the world itself were no longer beholden to sense and reason. And I can’t imagine a more damning critique of the Glenn Beck ethos than that.

And Steven Levingston in the Washington Post:

The suspense of “The Overton Window” comes largely from wondering when the thrills will begin. There’s the obligatory prologue murder, but then the pulse of this novel flatlines. In place of thrills, we get entire chapters in which characters lecture on the rightness of their viewpoints. A moment of cliche action erupts when a New York City taxi with Noah inside jumps a curb and nearly hits a hot dog stand. Later an atomic bomb goes off, but the mushroom cloud settles without so much as a dusty throat for anyone.

On the other hand, Nelson DeMille calls it “as good a political thriller as you’re going to find this year” and Vince Flynn believes it is “visionary.” It is already #2 at Amazon. I will reserve judgment until I get a chance to read it for myself.

Leaving aside the fact that Beck didn’t actually write The Overton Window (“I don’t write. I speak. I get bogged down in writing,” Beck told USA Today; Jack Henderson, one of his three credited collaborators, “went in and put the words down”), I am intrigued by the idea of someone stumbling on Beck’s book a century from now. It may tell them more about who we were as a people than a genuinely literary novel by, I don’t know, a Don Delillo or a Toni Morrison would.

I just read Richard Hofstadter’s brilliant profile of William “Coin” Harvey–a figure who very few remember today, but who laid the groundwork for William Jenning Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” campaign with his bestselling books about bimetalism in the 1890s. Coin’s Financial School sold something like 1,000,000 copies. Harvey, like Beck, also authored a work of fiction. A Tale of Two Nations dramatized the “Crime of ’73,” when, according to Harvey, Jewish English bankers bribed a corrupt American Congress to de-monetize silver. “I am here to destroy the United States–Cornwallis could not have done more,” his villain exults. “For the wrongs and insults, for the glory of my own country, I will bury the knife deep into the heart of this nation.” He also sets his cap for an American heiress who is “fair and beautiful enough to typify Columbia.” Just as he is about to ravish her (“the man’s eyes blazed with the fire of his race in the old days, the fire that came when David gazed upon Bathsheba”), the Silverite hero rescues her.

In 1920, living in obscurity in Arkansas, Harvey wrote a book called Common Sense, or The Clot on the Brain of the Body Politic, which attacked the Federal Reserve. It “overshadows the Bank of England, and gives to the money-lenders greater advantage than the old United States bank did, that General Jackson killed.” In the last years of his life, Harvey began to raise money to build a 130-foot tall pyramid in which to deposit his books, so they could preserved for the benefit of future civilizations. “When this can be read,” the plaque on its capstone would read, “Go below and find the cause of the death of a former Civilization.”

11 thoughts on “Glenn Beck’s new novel

  1. “I am intrigued by the idea of someone stumbling on Beck’s book a century from now. It may tell them more about who we were as a people than a genuinely literary novel by, I don’t know, a Don Delillo or a Toni Morrison, would.”

    Spot on.

  2. I was surprised to see the Wa.Post reviewer drawing parallels to the Turner Diaries … Not because I disagree that the book may inspire violence, but that I did’t expect the Post to be willing to draw the comparison.

    I wonder what Rick Barber will think when he reads the book.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/gather_your_armies.html

    Talk about your real Overton Window. You now have patriot/survivalist extremist beliefs about the IRS becoming mainstream (Beck endorsed the the bit about the IRS, criticized the gather armies bit).

  3. I’m reeling at the Sharron Angle quote that’s been going around:

    “You know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.”

    “Take Harry Reid out” in the context of the Second Amendment sounds downright thuggish. (See Greg Sargent for more).

  4. In the general vein of celebrity political novels, this sounds considerably worse than Spiro Agnew’s effort from long ago in the 1970s, which actually was not a bad political thriller, plot-wise, & had a lot of interesting details on DC politics of that era. The surprise was not that Agnew understood poltics but that he could convey that understanding reasonably well. Agnew wrote that novel himself, BTW. (Various stretches of florid prose left little doubt on that point.)

    It’s a sad day when a Glenn Beck can make the likes of Spiro Agnew look talented & virtuous.

    1. Back when I was a book club editor, this guy who was starting up a small press in Baltimore (Bancroft, it was called) came to visit me. The only celebrity he had on his list was an old friend who’d become famous as the anchor of Inside Edition. I sort of remembered him from when he used to be a local news guy on Channel 2. The book was called THOSE WHO TRESPASS: A NOVEL OF MURDER AND TELEVISION. His name was Bill O’Reilly and the rest, as they say, is history.

  5. I’m googling for Hofstadter’s profile of Harvey mentioned above, where in his works can it be found?

    Interestingly, Conservapedia’s entry on bimetallism is high up on the search results for “William Harvey”…

    1. It was the introduction to the 1963 John Harvard Library reprint of Coin’s Financial School. It is collected in The Paranoid Style in American Politics (Vintage, 2008) as “Free Silver and the Mind of ‘Coin’ Harvey.” Hofstadter writes how, in his declining days, Harvey became obsessed “with the violence and torture inflicted by the Roman Empire….He saw the persecution of the early Christians as a political event, a response primarily to their protest against usury, and he cited Tacitus to warn of the fate that such protest could expect: ‘Some were nailed on crosses, others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts and exposed to the fury of dogs’….It is a melancholy thought that this old man, spending his last years in the quiet of an Ozark village, should have had to be tormented by such nightmares.”

      A couple of months ago I read the manuscript of H.W. Brands’s forthcoming AMERICAN COLOSSUS: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900 (Doubleday, October, 2010), which also had a fair bit about Harvey and free silver.

      One hundred years from now people wiill read about the “Amero” and it will sound as remote as the “Crime of ’73.”

  6. Beck didn’t write this?!? Interesting post. I have a review of Overton’s Window, the political theory, on my blog that might interest you.

    1. Man’s got to make a living. I bet he sells a lot more copies in Glenn Beck’s name than he did in his own.

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