Pretty much. And I’m going to keep this to history, not the Kardasians.
On Presidents’ Day, have you ever counted the number of Presidents represented on the bookstore table? See any about James Buchanan or Franklin Pierce? How about James Polk, who was rather important in the land grabbing department, or Andrew Johnson, who was in charge of Reconstruction after the Civil War?
Nada. Why? Because the assumption is that celebrity or big names sell, and no one cares about anything else.
I blame marketing for some of this. Of course, we are interested in the big names. They are big for a reason, good or bad, but if marketing cared even an eighth as much about educating the public as they do about profits, they might hype the lesser knowns and still rake in the dollars. Just how many books must we have on Reagan, FDR, Teddy, and JFK? Volume leads to abysmal prose and sloppy research. New insights? After the 20th book, maybe not so much.
OK, I’m a confirmed contrarian and so far over the age of consent that I’ve forgotten what that means. But I long for well-written, thoughtful books on leaders like James Buchanan, whose benighted leadership helped lead us to the Civil War, or why a man so clearly unqualified to be President like Franklin Pierce could ever be elected to the job. These lesser lights, the industry deemed hoi pelloi of history, are often key figures to understanding what might be going on today or offer warnings that something is happening that needs addressing.
As a final argument against yet another book on, for instance, FDR, I ask this. Have we learned anything from the last many books on his years in office? Seems we have forgotten, or never learned, why such decisions as the unconscionable imprisonment of Japanese Americans were tragic mistakes. On the other hand, maybe none of the books about him were ever read. Maybe only books on the Kardasians really do matter…