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Illiterature for the Masses: California Recall Election 2003
Now that the summer book season of easy reads, romance and adventure novels and mysteries is coming to a close, it’s time to consider serious non-fiction. In this category, Al Franken’s Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) still sits atop The New York Times Bestseller List. However, a new entry, California’s The Official Voter Information Guide for the Recall Election is beginning to look like this season’s most important new work of non-fiction.

The Guide begins with a brief section of expository chapters, but soon enters its centerpiece, a unique realm of hope and idealism titled simply “Candidate Statements: Governor.”

Brooke Adams, a 25-year old sales executive from Orange County, opens “Statements” in an uneasy rebellious tone, underplaying The Guide's gravity with a slogan straight out of a community college textbook: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

From there, The Guide offers 104 separate, yet related works — an intricate social patchwork of California and our country some might say. Beware. The Guide’s self-deprecation is fearless. There are glimpses of monsters and midgets, of inspiration and disillusionment. At times breezy, at others times garrulous, “Statements” is that rare moment in literature that seems to burst with primal energy.

Curiously hyphenated gubernatorial candidate Alex-St. James, proclaims a strange dichotomy. “Once an Aspirant Catholic Priest,” he says “I support life from conception to the grave and the right to bear arms.”

Vik S. Bawja, makes unique use of the surreal double entendre in his sweet shattered haiku-ish verse.“I am a recent immigrant like you,” he says, “my 3 kids are native Californians, Kamal, and I thank God for being in California.”

A candidate sure to warm the hearts of misogynists statewide, Warren Farrell bellows, “My recent research has uncovered why children raised by single dads do better than children raised by single moms; why men now earn less then women for the same work; why our sons now do worse in school, than our daughters.”

The hypothetically downtrodden gender is skillfully sidestepped by Rich Grosse, who adds starpower to unmarraigables as he courts the lonely vote. “Single adults are the Rodney Dangerfield of our society, “ he says. “’They can’t get no respect’ I am the first candidate in California history to campaign on a Fairness for Singles Platform.”

All is not simply affairs of state for The Guide. As Kevin Richter reveals, there may be a minimalist metaphysical edge to life in Sacramento. Richter sums up his qualifications in two simple words: “I breathe.”

Inhale, indeed. B.E. Smith gives insight not usually found in state sponsored readings. “I spent two years in federal prison,” he says, “because I grew medical marijuana….” He hopes to free all current prisoners of the drug war.

Midway through, The Guide's carefully crafted mood shifts when Trek Thunder Kelly journeys down a frightfully obscure side path. “Dear Voters, Please vote for me, thus breaking the Seventh Seal and incurring Armageddon.”

But Kelly’s end times proclamation is soon thoughtfully tempered by Diane Beall Templin’s religious sentiments. “May the Lord give you the Wisdom of Solomon as you vote,’ she says. “I pray that the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, will guide me in all decisions, especially in selecting the best and brightest trusted servants to resolve the budget crises and heal our land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.”

Bill Prady, on the other hand “is an award-winning television comedy writer and producer who will bring the skills he’s learned creating sitcom episodes to Sacramento. If elected, he pledges to solve all the state’s problems in twenty-two minutes and forty-four seconds with two commercial breaks and a hug at the end.”

The mesh of opposing directions and literary techniques in The Guide is stunning. Yet, somehow, it holds together as a cohesive volume.

David Ronald Sams' short choppy style is an exercise in thought-hopping: “There’s too much violence in the media. I’ve won nine Emmy awards. This campaign should be about one issue: Balancing the budget. We must think 'out of the box.' For example, I would offer naming rights to our freeways.”

Kurt E. “Tachikaze” Rightmyer foreshadows his predicted tenure by explaining his curious middle name. "The name Tachikaze stands for ‘wind from a sword stroke,’” he says “As the leading middleweight of the California State Sumo Series and a serious, well-educated, non-partisan candidate for governor, I will attack the 800-lb. gorilla of big government…”

Whether or not the California Recall takes place on October 7, 2003, The Guide will remain an important artifact in American literary, as well as regional, history. Remarkably, California’s registered voters received this extremely collectable work of illiterature for free, courtesy of the state. For the moment, the rest of the world can bid for copies on eBay.

The Official Voter Information Guide for the California Recall Election is a milestone publication, breaking through the traditionally over-marketed state of American politics. Its honesty will make you cringe. Yet, by declarative magic, the guide illuminates the world through the stories it tells.

At the conclusion of this masterful new postmodern work, we are left to reflect on candidate Ivan A. Hall’s one line entry, directed not only at the state of California, its gubernatorial candidates, and American culture, but also at civilization itself.

“What’s it all about?” he asks.

— Nathan Callahan, September 18, 2003


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