7 Rulers For Writers

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November 4, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Measure Up

Who are the greatest supporters of new writing?  Who makes the most room on the library bookshelves? 

You’ve probably guessed.

Book Burners.

You’ll get your book burned if you don’t show you can write from the proper perspective, that you possess the necessary mental skills to write under the flame, known as the Goebbels Profile. 

That’s why he’s number one.

1.  Dr. J. Goebbels

First off, you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing.  As the nazi Minister Of Enlightenment and Propaganda, a Goebbels’ approval was more a career maker than the Oprah seal.  Disapproval was much worse than being overlooked by Oprah.

If there’s a book on the market similar to yours, smear the author to the right people and he goes away along with all of his books.  You fill the void until you go away and all of your books disappear to make room for the next guy.

My advice: stick with Oprah; a nazi is never a good choice. 

Did Goebbels believe in his mission?  At the end of WWII he poisoned his six kids, shot his wife, then capped himself after Hitler gave him a retirement watch for sticking around longer than the other goons. 

Even knowing a book burner can be dangerous, let alone live with one.  Sometimes you can’t avoid it.

2.  Every Nation Crushing Despot

When you go to the trouble of sailing or marching off to battle, and win, you don’t want a lot of negative mention in the archive.

Strike that match, Pol Pot.

Throw another cigar on the inferno, Fidel.

After a long campaign of rape and plunder, the troops deserve a nice fire.  Speaking of rape and plunder…

3.  Stalin

Why did Stalin burn books?

If you had to depend on the weather to avoid defeat to the French, and still keep your east-slavic head up high, you’d burn books too.

No one wants to lose a war to a midget, military genius or not, especially Stalin who tips the yardstick at 5’2″.  That both Napoleon and Stalin threw such enormous shadows across the world is very impressive. 

If you hold your hand in the right light you can make a barking dog shadow by moving your little finger.  No one gets hurt until you make a pitbull shadow like those two.    

4.  The Censor

You rule your own desk.  You know who you are. 

George Orwell thinks you stink for censoring 1984 and Animal Farm. 

Mark Twain wants to drag you behind a river boat for banning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Ray Bradbury will light you up with Fahrenheit 451.

You shut the door on The Bell Jar for questioning the roles of marriage and motherhood; Sylvia Plath answered by opening the door on her oven and putting her head in. 

No censorship in there.

Is censorship worse than burning?  Just ask,   

5.  Torquemada

The old Inquisitor General burned his way through books and people.  The man was the Adolph Hitler of his day, an evil role model for the Austrian painter.   Torq had his Goebbels, though he probably wasn’t called the Minister Of Enlightenment and Propaganda. 

Same end result. 

If the authorities found the wrong book in your room, say a ‘Hebrew Bible’ for example, you had big problems.  Real big.

It’s telling that Torquemada is getting a lighter review because he lit his book and victim holocaust out of religious fever. 

Memo to the Spanish Inquisition:  The Nuremberg Defense didn’t work at the Nuremberg Trials.  You were not just a soldier following orders.  You’ll never get off unless those history books go up in smoke. 

It could happen.

6.  Girolamo Savonarola

This priest was strong enough to command a Bonfire of the Vanities.  No, he didn’t burn Tom Wolfe‘s title, but he would have if he found you reading it in 1497. 

He knew sin and the goods of sin.  He knew what to do with the goods of sin: burn it.

Did Giovanni Boccaccio‘s books deserve the fire pit?  He wrote a book of biographies of one hundred and six famous women; maybe his material was too hot for Italy. 

Sinfully hot?  Oh, yes.

7.  HUAC

The House Un-American Activities Committee was Big Brother.  If someone wrote a book before HUAC with HUAC as the main character, it would have been burned.

From 1938 to 1975, HUAC worked its Inquisition magic, breaking artists down to give names of people who may or may not have been a member of the Communist Party, or failing that, branding the artist with the Red tag.

It’s one thing to burn, and another to censor, but to reach in and strangle a potentially offending book idea in its formative moment is a Ruler For Writers’ dream.  Where was the HUAC-equivalent for Mein Kampf?   For Das Kapital?

If authorities kill the book idea, then they don’t have to burn.

They don’t have to censor.

We’ll do it to ourselves and won’t know the difference.

Is it warm in here, or is it just me?


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