EXCLUSIVE: Krystal Ball’s High School Book Reports

Krystal Ball, literary critic
May 7, 2014

It was with some amusement yesterday that I saw Krystal Ball had doubled down on her effort to recast Animal Farm as a story of evil capitalists disrupting a socialist paradise, or something. It’s all the more amusing because George Orwell was actually a socialist; as my colleague CJ Ciaramella has noted, there are plenty of his books she could have chosen from if she wanted to make a point about the evils of inequality and not look like a complete spaz.

I was curious to see if Ball had a history of horribly misreading the messages of novels she had been assigned, so I reached out to her high school English teacher, Mrs. Falschlehrer.* When I asked if Ball had frequently missed the point in her honors English class, Mrs. Falschlehrer laughed and laughed. Apparently her essays are the stuff of legend among the faculty. I asked Mrs. Falschlehrer to pass along some of Ball’s work, and though she demurred at first citing student confidentiality, she eventually relented. "If it keeps one solitary student from looking like a complete idiot on national TV one day, it’ll be worth it," she told me in an email.**

Included below are the opening paragraphs from a few of Ball’s greatest hits. I think we can all agree that her horrible misinterpretation of Animal Farm is the least of her errors.

Brave New World review, by Krystal Ball

Aldous Huxley’s idealistic vision of the future is often misread by ideologues blinded to the truth. But his vision for the future—one in which everyone’s mental and physical health is taken care of by the state, slutshaming has been eliminated, and the dead-white-male-dominated literary "canon" has been discarded—provides a path forward for those of us looking for true freedom: the freedom from want, from need, from fear. …

The Crucible review, by Krystal Ball

While some say that Arthur Miller’s renowned play is a condemnation of McCarthyism, I think there’s a deeper truth here. Indeed, the villains and heroes are reversed. Sometimes the community needs to be protected from heretics, from those who would, say, try to convince us that climate change is not the greatest threat facing humanity or that the need to check one’s privilege has abated. Some thought policing is good for the polity. Speaking of "thought policing," I noticed some interesting parallels with George Orwell’s famous utopian novel 1984

The Long Walk review, by Krystal Ball

This early Stephen King novella about a group of children who are chosen to march until all but one has died is often read as a parable for the unthinking evil of a government sending young men off to the jungles of Vietnam. But there’s another lesson to be learned here, one about the benefits of government-mandated exercise. Think how greatly our obesity epidemic would be reduced if every teen were to train themselves to be able to march hundreds of miles without stop? Granted, the punishment for failure is a bit extreme—but there can be no reward without some sacrifice, right? …

Now, look: As someone who is prone to making the occasional counterintuitive argument—that Elysium is an anti-Obamacare parable, say, or that Star Trek: Into Darkness is pro-drone strike—I’m sympathetic to Krystal Ball’s weirdly warped take on these classics. But even I have my limits.

*I didn’t; this is parody.

**No she didn’t; again, this is a parody.