A book by Southern Oregon University English professor Ed Battistella on the history of presidential insults has been named a finalist for this year’s Oregon Book Award in the general nonfiction category. Battistella is one of a combined 35 authors announced this week as finalists across seven categories.
His book, “Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President, from Washington to Trump,” was published a year ago by the Oxford University Press. Battistella and the book have since been quoted in numerous media stories – from the Baltimore Sun to the Daily Beast to Time Magazine.
The book documents more than 500 presidential insults, with each of the 45 U.S. presidents through Donald Trump receiving a share of the ire. The commanders in chief have been called everything from “ignoramuses” to “idiots” to “fatheads,” and have drawn comparisons to creatures such as “sad jellyfish” and “strutting crows.”
“I’ve always loved history and was curious about the insults and invective used in earlier elections,” Battistella said after the book was published. “Our language provides plenty of ways to insult those in power and our Constitution gives us the right to do it.”
“Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels” is one of five finalists for the Oregon Book Awards’ Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction. The other nominees are “The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America,” by Nicholas Buccola of Portland; “No Option but North: The Migrant World and the Perilous Path Across the Border,” by Kelsey Freeman of Bend; “Persistent Callings: Seasons of Work and Identity on the Oregon Coast,” by Joseph E. Taylor III of Portland; and “Abalone,” by Ann Vileisis of Port Orford.
The winner will be decided by a three-judge panel and announced on a special episode of OPB Radio’s “The Archive Project” at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. Out-of-state judges are assigned to name award recipients in each category, based on literary merit, and each winner will receive a $1,000 cash award.
Frances Fuller Victor, who died in 1902, spent 35 years traveling throughout Oregon to interview pioneers and write the region’s history.
The annual awards are presented by the nonprofit organization Literary Arts, Inc., to recognize the best work of Oregon writers in the areas of fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, drama, graphic literature and literature for young readers. The nonfiction category includes two awards for nonfiction – general and creative.
Battistella was inspired to write “Dangerous Crooked Scoundels” by the contentious 2016 presidential campaign. He is the author of several books, including previous Oregon Book Award finalist “Bad Language” and “Sorry about That: The Language of Public Apology.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and his master’s degree and doctorate in linguistics from the City University of New York. He teaches linguistics and writing at SOU.