Sunday, September 24, 2006
Chávez endorsement results in a best-seller
Reuters, The New York Times
Move over Oprah - the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, is calling the literary shots this week. Chávez made headlines for his United Nations speech on Wednesday calling President George W. Bush "the devil himself," but a reading suggestion he made in the same speech created a best-seller.
Chávez began his UN speech by displaying a copy of the U.S. writer Noam Chomsky's book "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance" and recommended that Americans read it instead of watching Superman and Batman movies, which he said "make people stupid."
By Thursday, the book had risen from backlist obscurity to be the No.3 bestseller on Amazon.com. By Friday, it was No.1. Before the speech, the 2004 book reprinted by Owl Books was being outsold by thousands of other titles on the online bookseller's Web site. Chávez did make one mistake: At a news conference after his UN address, he expressed regret at not having met Chomsky before the linguist's death.
A call to Chomsky's house in Lexington, Massachusetts, found him very much alive. "I continue to work and write," he said. He also said he was struggling through "10,000 e-mails" that he had received since the remarks by Chávez. While retired from teaching full time, Chomsky said he still went to his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, occasionally lecturing and also working on a new book.
Chomsky, 77, said that he was glad that Chávez liked his book, but that he not describe himself as flattered. "We should look at ourselves through our own eyes and not other people's eyes," he said.
Chomsky said he had taken no offense at Chávez's remarks about his being dead. It did land him in the exclusive club of luminaries, like Mark Twain, who was reported dead before his time. $@
"The Bush administration backed a coup to overthrow his government," Chomsky said. "Suppose Venezuela supported a military coup that overthrew the government of the United States? Would we think it was a joke?" $@(Reuters, NYT)