Writers, Beware Your Power: A Cautionary Tale

Writers are the most powerful people in the world. We can change the way people think simply by giving them a glimpse of life through our characters’ eyes. We can transport them to places they’ve never been, catapult them into situations they’ve only dreamed of, and reveal universal truths that just might alter their entire perception of reality. Although always not in the way we hope. Take Michelle Bachmann, for instance.

To anyone who watched her rebuttal to the State of the Union Address last week and wondered, Geez, what turned her into such a wing nut, anyway? The answer, straight from Gail Collins in the New York Times, is Gore Vidal’s novel, Burr:

“Bachmann claims that she left the Democratic Party when she was a college senior, after reading Burr, Gore Vidal’s caustic historical novel. “He was kind of mocking the founding fathers, and I just thought ‘what a snot,’ ” Bachmann told The Star Tribune. It was, she said, a transformational moment so critical to her worldview that she can still remember what she was wearing. (“A tan trench coat, blue pin-striped shirt, like a tailored shirt, and dress slacks.”)”

Somehow the thought of Bachmann reading in a trench coat seems deeply odd in and of itself.  But that’s beside the point. The point is, for better or worse, story is transformative. Me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time when I was nine and learned to question authority, even if it meant eating a sand sandwich (wearing jeans, a tee shirt and Keds, probably). What about you? What book changed your worldview? (Clothing description optional.)