If you give the people a choice, apparently, the people will choose the most boring option -- also, the people are evidently big fans of the deep south. In a completely precedented move, the city announced its pick for this yearsOne Book, One Denver
, and yet again, it's a been-told-a-million-times story of racism and white guilt below the Mason-Dixie Line. Except, unlikeTo Kill a Mockingbird
, last year's pick, this one isn't a groundbreaking classic that, if not exactly hyper-relevant today, is still an awesome book that certainly was in its time -- this one's, well, just not relevant.
In a round of no-doubt vigorous voting, the good citizens of Denver went with The Help, Kathryn Stockett's novel about three women driven together in 1962 Mississippi by societal forces and their own ennui and... interestingly, I seem to be incapacitated by a crippling bout of ennui right now. But as boring as my own synopsis of the book is even to me, it's not half as boring as the one the city posted on the One Book, One Denver website. Here's an excerpt, which I'm assuming comes from the book jacket:
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Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job.
Good Lord, if that is not the safest description of the stock black woman ever to be put to the page -- honestly, other characters might as well include Louise Jefferson and Aunt Jemima. If it deserves any credit, perhaps it's that the archetype has apparently been promoted from token status to main character; whether that will make it more or less obnoxious, well, I suppose we'll have to read the book to find out.
A central problem with One Book, One Denver has always been that the books never seem to have the slightest thing to do with Denver. That problem might have at least approached being solved this year with either of the other two options, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski, who lives in Colorado, or Fine Just the Way It Is, by Annie Proulx -- which is the one I was holding out for. Though Proulx doesn't live in Colorado, per se, she's got strong ties with Wyoming, and her stories have a spartan, hard-edged aesthetic that, to me, conveys the spirit of the American West.
Instead, we voted for a book to represent us that not only has no connection to our town, but also by all rights appears as though it sucks. You can't entirely judge a book by its jacket description, of course, but in this case, I think I've read enough.