Whether the channel catfish of Tennessee paused from filtering mud through their whiskered mouths and sucking nourishment from it to be insulted by this is not known, but they ought to be. The conflation of a book composed of ancient Jewish legends, a biography of a man said to be the Son of God, and some hasty revisions to make it more palatable after His death with a fine, channel-dwelling aquatic animal that can be fried and served with hush puppies gives all non-Tennesseans pause. Weren’t other books even considered?
Here in California, we have lots of state stuff. Being named the official something of our state has happened many times, as part of our time-honored tradition of paying politicians money and not getting much for it. But we don’t have an official book, and if we did, it wouldn’t be the Bible, or at least it wouldn’t be until we considered other books as well.
For example,“One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” by Doctor Seuss would make an excellent state book, being way shorter and easier for legislators to read than the Bible. Our state fishes, which are the golden trout or the garibaldi, depending on whether you are fishing in fresh or salt water, would certainly be soothed and complemented by a book that mentioned their animal order, and the colorful cover would look attractive on every legislator’s desk.
Alternatively, we could nominate “Where the Wild Things Are,” the classic by Maurice Sendak, a book that climaxes not with a bunch of stuffy, hard to remember (especially when you’re horny) Commandments, but with the memorable exhortation “Let the wild rumpus begin!” which has always been more or less our unofficial state motto.
The “Wizard of Oz” would also work. This tale of a young woman wandering the length of a yellow brick road and eventually fulfilling her dreams is an allegory for many lives here in the Golden State, without any of the dreary waitressing and furtive sex favors the real-life Dorothys of Hollywood have to endure. Plus the majority of our legislators would be very surprised to find out it was a book as well as a movie.
To go another route, we could select “The Bible of Screenwriting,” which is not a Bible at all but tips on how to make a fortune writing screenplays. This would be a salute to every Californian who has written a screenplay, which is practically all of them.
But if we wanted to go the way of Tennessee and pick a long, confusing book with a lot of inherent contradictions and fanciful tales in it, we wouldn’t have to go to the Middle East for it. In California, we’ve got Dianetics, the Bible of the Church of Scientology, written by a part-time Californian, where the geographical center of the faith is not some dusty old wall in Jerusalem, but a modern structure in Los Angeles.
Making Dianetics the official California state book would no doubt piss off many, many Californians, although not Tom Cruise, because they regard Dianetics as major crock of poo and every page of every copy ever printed a waste of paper, paper that could have been used to mop up spilled beer or have pictures of prostitutes printed on it and handed out in the streets of Vegas or some other necessary function of civilization.
But it would show that our legislature, like Tennessee’s, is not afraid to insult many of the voters that elected them and get itself sued by the ACLU, which will surely happen once the governor’s veto gets stomped in the dust of Nashville.
And that, for a state legislature, is a good day’s work.