Political essays from Dean, Brazile, Everett, Saunders, Almond, Ostriker — and many more, including me

What We Do NowWhat We Do Now, “a galvanizing call to arms in the wake of the presidential election,” with contributions from Howard Dean, Donna Brazile, writers Percival Everett, George Saunders, Alicia Ostriker and Steve Almond, legal scholar Cass Sunstein, Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, and more, including me, goes on sale tomorrow morning. (A full list of the contributors is available at the bottom of this page.)

The Associated Press is calling the anthology an “instant book,” and PW Daily notes that “some issues of Publishers Weekly don’t get turned around as fast as [What We Do Now].” So it’s an almost immediate response to the election, and although I haven’t seen the finished product I’m guessing the contributors were pretty fired up. I know I was.

I contributed a short essay called “Stop Yawning Over Taxes.” It’s intended to make taxes accessible and interesting (pause for laughter to subside), and to explain why we should care about them.

Since sending the piece off a couple of days before Thanksgiving I’ve wondered, should that be “Stop Yawning ABOUT Taxes”? And isn’t the bit at the end — about shouting instead of yawning — an ill-considered contrast to which I haven’t built properly?

Normally there would’ve been time to tinker with things like that, going back and forth and slowly driving my editor mad, but Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians of Melville House Books turned the anthology around in three weeks.

When Dennis emailed and asked me to contribute last month, he pitched the collection as a timely response to an emergency situation: another four years of George W. Bush.

Here are a few sneak preview lines:

  • Howard Dean: Americans are a people unique in the world for their optimism, their faith, their ability to hope, and their belief that they can control their own fates. We are a relatively young country, uncynical by international standards, and though we’ve often been labeled by others as naive, our capacity for hope and faith and optimism has also made us a magnet for people seeking hope and faith and control over their lives from all over the globe.

    It horrifies me to see this strength of ours being squandered.

  • Percival Everett: It’s easy for us to become despondent in the face of recent events. We have watched as obvious and glaring lies have been sold to a large portion of the American public. We are watching still as a so-called war against terrorism rages in the wrong place, killing countless innocent people while our people count “insurgents” who are behaving just as we would if we had been invaded.
  • Steve Almond: Step One: Grow Some Balls

    Stop drifting toward the center, in the errant hope that the American people will view us as a kinder, gentler Republican Party.

Here’s the first paragraph of my essay:

The first time I thumbed through the U.S. tax code, I panicked. Against my better judgment, I’d succumbed to my father’s wishes and enrolled in law school, and now I was sitting in a basic federal income tax class for law students. Around me sat accounting and finance types who, like my father before them, wanted to learn to help rich people avoid taxes so that they, in turn, would become rich enough to need tax advice. With a background in British and American literature, I knew I was hopelessly out of my depth. And when the professor asked who’d taken accounting or finance in undergrad, I learned I was one of only two people who hadn’t. “It’s not too late to drop the class,” the professor said.

Next week the book will be available in these parts at St. Mark’s Books, and in D.C. at Politics & Prose.


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