It was my first Leap Year. My second, actually, but at 3 years old, I couldn't count to 29. At 7, on Feb. 29, 1964, I got my first library card. Thanks for all the books, every librarian ever.
Now, I read them and more or less write them. (See Lulu.com for a Leap Year special!) And that's the end of book plugs for this post.
Recently, two books off the shelf of the Brown County Library came home. Strangely, both have time travel and presidential themes.
The first is a funny little volume called "Taft 2012" by Jason Heller. Its conceit is that William Howard Taft, after being president, disappeared off the face of the earth, only to reappear in 2011, unaged but unknowing of what had happened in the nearly 100 years since. It's big news, of course, but because all anybody talks about any more is politics, Taft gets mixed up in that - while still reconciling himself with the 21st century, his remaining family, and the biggest trial for the heavy weight champion among presidents - modern overprocessed food.
It's fun, if not entirely historically accurate (Taft, of course, later became chief justice, to his great joy, and died in 1930, and he does not have a great-granddaughter in the House). But, as Johnny Carson used to say, "you buy the premise, you buy the bit" and it's surprisingly easy to do so.
Not surprisingly, the other book is darker - it's by Stephen King. "Taft 2012" tells its story over the time it takes Big Steve to clear his throat. But then, King set himself a larger task - saving John F. Kennedy.
It begins, as every King story does, in Maine, where a former teacher is invited to visit the past by the dying owner of an old diner. Go down the stairs and you're in 1958 as your present self. Stay as long as you like, days, weeks, months ... but when you go back to the present, it's only two minutes later. And every time you go back to 1958, you start over again - any previous changes you made are erased.
Turns out saving JFK was the dying man's dream, but he knows he can't do it. So he tasks the new guy with the job.
Jake (the new guy) eventually gets to Dallas on the title date, but it's a long five years, and the bulk of the book is how he gets there. Indeed, you're almost 90 percent of the way through the book before the title date, and once it's all over, there's a surprisingly short (and in retrospect obvious) look at how things changed after the event. (It's interesting that King, at the end of the book, credits others including Doris Kearns Goodwin with helping with that part. It almost seemed like he was trying to blame others for a weak point in the whole thing.)
Still, Steve's got a way of making you want to see what happens next, and while it moves slowly, it moves. (I'm tempted to say it's a cross between "The Stand" and "24" but I won't. Of course.)
What is interesting is that in King's last two books - "11/22/63" and "Under The Dome" - he is going back to ideas he had long before but didn't feel he was ready to tackle. Both, it might be noted, are heavy on political thinking. In "Under The Dome," the book all but blames right-wingers for the problem; "11/22/63" is a bit more nuanced, but again, the liberal area is peaceful and serene; it's the right wing who causes the problems. Personally, I sympathize with that viewpoint; still, it's a lot more political than he had been in the past. Sadly, political venom seems to have seeped into our society - now THERE'S a horror story - and it is probably inevitable that it has even affected all those small towns in Maine where Stephen King makes bad things happen.