We Just Elected a Baby as President?

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FOTUS: A Novel, by Kevin Kunundrum, Bancroft Press, 360 pages, $27

Alexander Rhett has not only become self aware, but also has just been elected President of the United States.

Brace yourselves because FOTUS, the latest novel by author Kevin Kunudrum takes readers on a fascinating ride just in time for the 2020 election cycle.

Almost instantly upon reading, we realize that little Alex is a terrible person, but not without one caveat: he is still a baby. However, one cannot deny that Kunudrum is using Rhett’s behavior to draw parallels to current political leaders. The most noticeable of these parallels is between Rett and President Donald Trump from his angry tweets to his slogan of “Make America Greater”. Throughout the novel, Alex is shaped by numerous characters and events, such as his battle with embittered Mallory Blitzen (a clear Hillary Clinton expy); his friendship with the not-so-starving artist, Vincent Van Go-Go; his relationship with the mysterious Florist organization; and his alliance with the leader of the New Black Panthers, Frederick Douglass-Jones. Unlike many real politicians, Alex redeems his public perception and grows as a person and leader signaled by his exit from the womb which is almost metaphorical for his physical growth and maturity as president. 

The novel does an excellent job of capturing the chaos of politics and society. There are many times where the events in the book could be something that happens in real life. 

Kevin Kunundrum, author of  FOTUS, attempts to do the same by pointing out the sheer ridiculousness of our political climate and society, as a whole. Not only is he successful, but he leaves no stone unturned taking on Saturday Night Live, progressives, and even the Rothschild Theory. The most alarming thing of this read is that many of these events would surprise very few if they happened in real life.

As elections approach, one begins to wonder if the timing for this book could have been any more perfect, even if this book was necessary? This leads to the novel’s greatest achievement: making the readers ask themselves has our society become so absurd that it has simply become a parody of itself?

Kezia Robinson is a staff writer and literary critic for the UB Post.

Don’t get mad, get new books and ancient newspapers

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The author stacks up on new library books. Photo Credit – Erin Toepfner

I felt like I was in an episode of “Mad Men” when I opened the UB student newspaper from the late 1950s. A half page ad for Marlboro jumped out and told me Marlboro was the most popular cigarette on college campuses nationwide, along with a U.S. map that had each state visually represented by an open pack of cigarettes.

Fortunately, I hadn’t exactly travelled back in time to that decade. I was safely scanning Langsdale Library’s archive of UB’s student newspapers, in the lovely smoke-free Special Collections reading room on the 4th floor of the Learning Commons, in the lovely, smoke-free, Langsdale Library.

But it felt a little like time travel. I was watching history unfold, reading students’ first-hand responses to events that seemed like staples of reality. The events of the past were so much a part of the fabric of my memory and existence that it took a few minutes for it to sink in when I read the headlines that Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, that this news was hitting people for the first time. It wasn’t a history book I was reading, it was history.

And a lot of it was infuriating—assassinations, sexist cartoons and cigarette ads to name a few of the more disturbing aspects of history I came across.

The further back in time I went with UB’s student newspapers, the larger the cigarette ads became. They slowly creeped up from half page ads to full page ads as they went back to the earliest issues in the 1930s.

On the other hand, it was spectacular to feel the fervor in the front page articles about the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. It was a relief to watch women take on more roles and work towards more diverse degrees, instead of being pigeon-holed into a few select majors. It was fun to see people streaking through the 1970s. It was heartening to read about the formation of a bike club in 1972.

It was fascinating to read about the anticipation for the then-new Langsdale Library, scheduled to be built in 1966, while the same building was being renovated right across the street in the present day. Plans for the state-or-the-art design repeatedly appeared in the student newspaper in the 1960s. In contrast to the current library designs with more glass letting in natural light, windows were being designed small, to cut down on the glare for people reading books. The plans were being published in the paper. I saw renderings of the new old library. Then, finally, in 1966, Langsdale Library was built and a photo of the “modern” building appeared on the front page in the student newspaper.

It was exciting to see the Langsdale Library make the front page repeatedly, every time the library received a new collection of books. There it would be in big blocky letters, headline after headline—“Langsdale Library receives X number of books,” in contrast to the present day, when libraries are giving away more and more books as we become more and more digital.

Although Langsdale Library has recently given away many books, there is no need to get mad.  The library recently received several carts of new books for its collection. This may not make the front page of the paper but here it is in the middle. The new books themselves can be found on the New Book Kiosk as you enter the library. Come check them out!

UB’s student newspapers will eventually be online back through the 1930s. Check out the UB Post back to 1981 in Langsdale Library’s  Special Collections for a little bit of time travel—and let me know what T.V. show you feel like you’re in!

Twelve-Thirty Talks and Writing Wednesdays

Whether you’re planning a paper or a garden, the library can help you cover ground

Are you looking for a unique learning experience this October? Twelve-thirty Talks or Writing Wednesdays at the library may fulfill that requirement.

On October 21, Dr. Jan L. Williams, Associate Professor of Accounting and Yale Gordon Chair for Distinguished Teaching will be discussing accounting as part of the library’s Twelve-Thirty Talks series.

Streambank native garden, two years after planting. Photo by Jeff La Noue
Streambank native garden, two years after planting.
Photo by Jeff La Noue

At the Twelve-Thirty Talks in September, sixteen people learned about native gardening. UB Sustainability Planner Jeff La Noue discussed how a native garden can attract butterflies, birds and help the environment, as well.

“My first big advice is to start small,” said La Noue. In order to be sustainable, your garden must be manageable.

“If you let nature do it, your neighbors are going to be mad at you,” added La Noue.

Are you a busy UB student? Then a native tree or bush may be better for your yard. They require little upkeep but are still good for the environment.

Are you wondering what to plant? La Noue recommends visiting Herring Run Nursery, located seasonally at 6131 Hillen Road. Staff can help with appropriate selections.

Are you looking for inspiration? Reference and Instruction Librarian Peter Ramsey recommends Paradise Lot , a book about two people who turned a junk yard into a permaculture garden.

You can find Paradise Lot and related books on Langsdale’s shelves and in the library catalog, as well.

Another October learning opportunity is Writing Wednesdays. The library and the Writing Center are partnering to bring you this educational experience.

Do you ever worry about your writing? Then you’re among even experienced writers.

“I have always experienced doubt about my own writing,” said Mia White, tutor for the Writing Center and writer for The UB Post.

White is working on an MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts. Despite being in her final year of the program, she is still apprehensive about her writing at times.

White’s own self-doubt is part of the reason she likes working as a writing tutor. “Seeing students change their attitude about themselves is really rewarding,” she says.

“I’m not a writer,” White hears students say, quite often. “If students learn skills on their own, and start to see writing as a process, they may begin to realize this isn’t the case.”

White will be in the library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday in October as a writing consultant. To make an appointment, please go to https://ubalt.mywconline.com/

“Bring an assignment sheet and whatever you have written – printed,” says White.

Do you like interactive workshops? Visit the Academic Learning Center to polish your professional prose. For details, check out the Achievement and  Learning Center  (ALC) online or in AC 113.

For the Writing Center’s Wednesday Walk-in Hours and Online Chat, please visit the Writing Center, also located online and in AC 113.

The Langsdale Library is located on the third floor of the Learning Commons.

Look out for more Twelve-Thirty Talks in November. Heather L. Pfeifer, Associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, will speak about police reform and training.

Do you want to be ready for finals? Stay tuned for details about the library’s late night, coming up in December.