Hugo Chavez: The New Oprah

Venezuelan president sends book shooting up the bestsellers list with gift to Obama

Back in the olden days when people still read books instead of just looking at the Twitter all day or poisoning their minds on Amazon's devilish anti-literacy device, the "e-Kindle," they got all of their reading suggestions from a single source. People liked it this way, because they never had to worry about if a particular book was good or bad before they picked it up; the oracle had commanded them to read, and so they did.

This oracle was known as Oprah Winfrey, and for years she reigned as supreme dictator of America's publishing establishment. Books she liked became overnight bestsellers. Authors who snobbishly declined her endorsement were publicly disemboweled, beheaded, and set aflame by seething mobs of Winfrey acolytes.

Now all that has changed, apparently, thanks to a new literary tastemaker: The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Just a few short days ago, he presented President Barack Obama with a book, and now that book is selling like crazy, crazy hotcakes on Amazon. It's called The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, and at time of writing was No. 2 on Amazon's bestseller list. That means it's even more popular than the latest round of sexy teen vampire smut.

The book concerns, oh, the terrible history of murder, rape, pillage and suffering that has characterized Latin American history for the past 500 years. Super fun bedside reading for our president! Fortunately, the copy Chavez gave him was in Spanish -- one of the few Earthling languages not spoken by the talented Barack Obama -- so maybe he'll just never have to find out how awful the U.S. was to the many nations of Central and South America, back in the day.

The literary critic and geographer Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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