As I do periodically, I’m re-reading the late John D. MacDonald’s novels, including the Travis McGee series. The books are a trenchant testament to their era — and not always in good ways, such as the irredeemable sexism leaps out of the pages.
But the novels were also brilliant commentaries on the America of MacDonald’s time — and even ours, decades after their publication, when so much remains so smart and prescient.
Here’s a passage from A Tan and Sandy Silence, a 1971 McGee novel.
The trouble with the news is that everybody knows everything too fast and too often and too many times. News has always been bad. The tiger that lives in the forest just ate your wife and kids, Joe. There are no fat grubworms under the rotten logs this year, Al. Those sickies in the village on the other side of the mountain are training hairy mammoths to stomp us flat, Pete. They nailed up two thieves and one crackpot, Mary. So devote wire-service people and network people and syndication people to gathering up all the bad news they can possibly dredge and comb and scrape out of a news-tired world and have them spray it back at everybody in constant streams of electronics, and two things happen. First, we all stop listening, so they have to make it ever more horrendous to capture our attention. Second, we all become even more convinced that everything has gone rotten and there is no hope at all, no hope at all. In a world of no hope the motto is semper fidelis, which means in translation. “Every week is screw-your-buddy week and his wife, too, if he’s out of town.”