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The Sunday Salon: Blizzards and Time Traveling Presidents

by Kim on December 9, 2012 · 21 comments

The Sunday Salon.comWinter has finally come to Minnesota with our first big winter storm. It’s been snowing pretty steadily since late last night, after a warm up storm on Friday afternoon. At this point I think we’re at about six inches, but it’s also very windy which makes it hard to tell. West Central Minnesota is under a blizzard warning until tonight, with wind chills expected to hit -35 degrees overnight. Yay!

While I get that people who live places without wintry weather can feel nostalgic about walking in a winter wonderland, I do not share those feelings. The hour I spent shoveling my driveway this morning is enough to kick any warm fuzzy feelings I have about the snow right out the window. But anyway, enough complaining… it’s going to be a long winter if I have an attitude about the snow already.

Before I went outside to unearth my car from the frigid drifts, I got to spend the morning reading a book. I’ve gotten in a nasty habit of starting my day out with television instead of reading, which has been good for keeping up on my shows, but not so good for my reading life (or, frankly, my mental health — reading helps keep me sane). It was nice to spend a few hours with a cup of tea, a big fuzzy blanket, and a fun book – Taft 2012 by Jason Heller.

Because I’m lazy, here’s a plot summary of Taft 2012 from Indiebound:

He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his peaceful, progressive practicality. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem. He is William Howard Taft . . . and he was already president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

A most extraordinary satire, Jason Heller’s debut novel follows the strange new life of a presidential Rip Van Winkle: a man who never even wanted the White House in the first place, yet finds himself hurtling toward it once more—this time, through the media-fueled madness of 21st-century America.

Taft 2012 was a really goofy book, but fit right into my ongoing love for fiction with a little bit of weird and pre-election craving for political stories. I thought the premise of this book — a time-traveling president who comes back and tries his had at politics today — was a lot of fun. Heller executes the premise well, making fun of the existing two party political system, the media, third party campaigns, political activists and the uneducated portion of the electorate. But there’s also an ongoing subplot/political motivator related to America’s food culture that didn’t feel quite as convincing to me as an issue that would mobilize a person like Taft.

Despite a promising premise, the writing style doesn’t do a lot of the book. The writing isn’t bad by any stretch, but it’s not the kind of writing that makes you want to mark passages to share later. If the premise isn’t working for you, the writing isn’t going to pull you back. But for the most part it gets the job done, and I liked the way Heller was able to give Taft a voice that felt  both historic and modern at the same time during some of his campaign speeches.

What I probably liked best about the book was how curious it made me to learn more about Taft himself. Although not the same type of biographical novel as I wrote about a few weeks ago, Taft 2012 includes just enough information about the real guy to pique my interest about a historical figure I don’t know much about. I already sent out an inquiry tweet to @bonjourcass, who I know is a presidential history nerd, to see if she has any recommended reading.

Until I get some Taft recommendations, however, I’ll probably be sinking my teeth back into Team of Rivals, a story about the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, or picking up Destiny of the Republic, a book about the life and death of President James Garfield. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an arm chair and fuzzy blanket calling my name while I wait out the rest of the snow storm. Happy Sunday, everyone!

Disclosure: I received a copy of Taft 2012 from the publisher for review consideration. 

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie December 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The premise of Taft 2012 sounds fascinating to me. I wonder what a politician/leader from a century ago would make of our present political landscape? Glad you have some good reading while you weather out the snowstorm.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm

It’s such a funny question! really nasty, but I was surprised to see how crazy and insulting it could be during Lincoln’s time when I went to see Lincoln over Thanksgiving. So, sometimes I wonder if it’s a matter of the more things change, the more they stay the same?

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bermudaonion(Kathy) December 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I live in one of those places without a lot of wintry weather and I have no longing for snow. I hope it warms up soon!

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Diane@BibliophilebytheSea December 9, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I’ve been watching a bit too many movies in lieu of reading on weekends, and then I get mad that the weekend is over and I feel like I wasted it…LOL

Have a great week.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I spent ALL of Saturday watching television. I was the kind of brain-dead day I think I needed, but not a habit I want to get into :)

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susan December 9, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Good luck making it thru the storm. Enjoy your presidential reading! After 2 decades of digging out cars in frigid conditions — it’s beyond nice to finally have a garage, hooray. I think I’ll leave it in there
cheers. http://www.thecuecard.com/

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm

We actually do have a garage, but it’s quite small and doesn’t have an electric opener, so seems to get stuck a lot. I think once the winter wears on me a little more, I will insist on putting my car inside!

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Wallis December 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

I moved to Maryland from Wisconsin almost 2 years ago now. I see my friends and family posting pictures of this most recent snow storm on Facebook and it is pretty to look at but I remember the reality of those winters and I’m not nostalgic at all. I don’t need a white Christmas. Stay warm and drive safe.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I think people who live in a climate where snow doesn’t stick around for a long time have more happy feelings about it — you have the hassle for a few days, and then in melts away. It’s the length and total freezing temperatures of a Midwest winter that are terrible.

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Charlie December 10, 2012 at 8:49 am

When I was a child I used to wish we’d have more snow, but on the occasion that it does, and you’re walking around a slippery campus, it becomes old before it’s really got anywhere. Hope the temperature will improve for you! I’ve never heard of Taft, but the premise sounds interesting enough to get round the writing.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

It did finally warm up this week, thank goodness! I mind the winter less when it’s in the 20s than when it is below zero!

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Nikki Steele December 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

You’re going for quite the presidential binge! What an exciting group of books–will have to recommend some to my sis who is a political nut.

We’re in Phoenix and hubby wants to make a move north in the next few years, Flagstaff most likely. I’m all in, just interested to see how hubby (born and raised in Texas) will deal with his first morning shoveling snow or putting on chains. Yuck.

Keep safe, warm, and curled up in a book!

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Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm December 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm

As a desert rat who went to college at NAU… Flagstaff is PERFECT. One or two good snowstorms a month, but always enough time for it to melt off in between. So snow to play in, but not endless months of shoveling. :)

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Nikki Steele December 11, 2012 at 8:44 am

You went to NAU? We love the area so much up there — such an adorable town — so it’s nice to hear that the snow isn’t too crazy :D

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm

That sounds almost perfect, Jessica! I know in my heart I’d miss the seasons if I left MN, but I know I’d be happy to have snow disappear after a couple days (even if it did come back eventually) :)

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nomadreader December 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I’m jealous of your snow! Here in Iowa we only got flurries, but they were beautiful. I’ve been trying to media fast on the weekends before noon. I find when I start my day reading, I read more throughout the day, whereas if I start by watching tv or checking my email, I am more distracted all day.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm

A morning media fast is a great idea. I think I’m going to try that, and see if starting the day with a book makes me more productive than watching television.

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Donna December 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Both “Team of Rivals” and “The Destiny of the Republic” are excellent books. I recommend them both. “Taft 2012″ sounds interesting; I’ve put it on hold for myself at the library. Thanks for the recommendation. I, too, need to get away from television (and the computer, for that matter) and back to reading.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I’m glad for the thumbs up on both books. I’ve read great reviews of both, and am enjoying Team of Rivals a lot (even if the reading is a little slow because of the length!).

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Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm December 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I won’t tell you that Eleanor and I went swimming last Thursday then…

(But if it makes you feel better, today’s high was only 53. And it was breezy. Aka “frigidly cold” according to all the wimpy desert types I’m FB friends with). ;)

Good luck with your shoveling! And Team of Rivals is a perfect snowbound read! Long, but fascinating.

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Kim December 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm

No, please don’t tell me that :)

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