Book critic reads eight books by Donald Trump, lives to tell tale
"Trump’s books tend to blur together, with anecdotes and achievements enhanced with each retelling. . . . I'm no billionaire, but much of the advice usually falls between obvious and useless."
-- Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada,
after binge-reading eight books by Donald Trump
after binge-reading eight books by Donald Trump
You remember back in April when that crazy guy swam the Gowanus Canal for Earth Day, and lived to tell the tale? Until now I would have held that out as a latter-day prototype for sheer raw guts. Now, however, Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada announces in a headline: "I just binge-read eight books by Donald Trump. Here's what I learned."
In both cases, of course, the first question that pops to mind is: Why??? At least the chicken that crossed the road had a reason -- to get to the other side.
In the case of the Trump binge-read, the second question that pops to mind is: You mean Trump has written eight books? Okay, I'll admit it: I would have been surprised to learn that he's read eight books. And Carlos never says that his binge-read encompassed all of Trump's books. There could be others floating around out there. For the record, here's the corpus:
Books cited in this essay:For the record, this breaks down to "three memoirs, three business-advice titles and his two political books, all published between 1987 and 2011." Already there's a surprise: Contrary to what one might have expected, only five of the eight titles begin with "Trump." Another observation just from the listing: In the most recent outing, for right-wing nuthouse Regnery, the "co"-writer has been demoted to ghostwriter. Or maybe The Donald actually wrote this book? Nah, I didn't think so either. When would he have time in his hectic schedule of being, you know, The Donald?
• Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump with Tony Schwartz. Ballantine Books, 1987.
• Trump: Surviving at the Top by Donald J. Trump with Charles Leerhsen. Random House, 1990.
• Trump: The Art of the Comeback by Donald J. Trump with Kate Bohner. Times Books, 1997.
• The America We Deserve by Donald J. Trump with David Shiflett. Renaissance Books, 2000.
• Trump: How to Get Rich by Donald J. Trump with Meredith McIver. Random House, 2004.
• Trump: Think Like a Billionaire by Donald J. Trump with Meredith McIver. Random House, 2004.
• Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life by Donald J. Trump and Bill Zanker. Collins Business, 2007.
• Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again by Donald J. Trump. Regnery Publishing, 2011.
Carlos begins his report: "Sitting down with the collected works of Donald J. Trump is unlike any literary experience I’ve ever had or could ever imagine." Going in, he says, he was "hoping to develop a unified theory of the man, or at least find a method in the Trumpness." It didn't quite work out that way.
Instead, I found . . . well, is there a single word that combines revulsion, amusement, respect and confusion? That is how it feels, sometimes by turns, often all at once, to binge on Trump’s writings. Over the course of 2,212 pages, I encountered a world where bragging is breathing and insulting is talking, where repetition and contradiction come standard, where vengefulness and insecurity erupt at random.One change Carlos notices is the back in the day, "before he was a brand name," The Donald "had to convince people he was worth their time," as chronicled in the book that Carlos knows its author keeps coming back to, 1987's Art of the Deal.
Elsewhere, such qualities might get in the way of the story. With Trump, they are the story. There is little else. He writes about his real estate dealings, his television show, his country, but after a while that all feels like an excuse. The one deal Trump has been pitching his entire career — the one that now culminates in his play for that most coveted piece of property, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — is himself.
It was small things here and there. Like asking his architect to gussy up the sketches for a hotel so it seemed like they spent huge sums on the plans, boosting interest in his proposal. Or having a construction crew drive machinery back and forth on a site in Atlantic City so that the visiting board of directors would be duped into thinking the work was far along. “If necessary,” he instructed a supervisor, “have the bulldozers dig up dirt on one side of the site and dump it on the other.”In business, naturally, The Donald is veritable perfection -- or whatever it is that's the next notch up from perfection. Even he acknowledges something less than perfection in his personal relationships, especially with women -- like his marriages. But then, you know women. Our Donald certainly does.
“I play to people’s fantasies,” Trump explains. “. . . It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.” Perception is reality, he writes, and achieving an “aura” (a recurring word in his writings) around his projects, his ideas and himself is essential.
“There’s nothing I love more than women, but they’re really a lot different than portrayed,” he confides. “They are far worse than men, far more aggressive, and boy, can they be smart!” Boy."To be fair," Carlos writes, "it is not just his wives, not just women -- it's everyone.
Trump’s books are sprayed with insults, like he’s trying to make sure we’re still paying attention. He trashes a former Miss Universe for gaining weight. When he meets a one-star general, he asks, “How come you’re only a one-star?” The Rolling Stones are “a bunch of major jerks.” He dismisses Paul McCartney, “the poor bastard.” (That was for not getting a prenup. Obviously.) Trump also slams complete unknowns — random banking executives or real estate types, lawyers or community activists, anyone who dared cross or disappoint him. “If someone screws you,” he writes, “screw them back.”There's more -- oh yes, there's more, and it's interesting enough, and I'll leave that for you to discover on your own. Well, maybe just this one more point, about The Donald and the American Dream, in which he is, as you may imagine, a big believer. It just may not be everyone's American Dream. Trump's dream, Carlos writes,
Trump’s world is binary, divided into class acts and total losers. He even details how physically unattractive he finds particular reporters, for no reason that I can fathom other than that it crossed his mind. The discipline of book writing does not dilute Trump; it renders him in concentrated form. Restraint is for losers.
is born of a narrow view of America. They say presidents struggle to break out of their bubbles, but Trump has designed his quite deliberately. “The reason my hair looks so neat all the time is because I don’t have to deal with the elements,” he explains. “I live in the building where I work. I take an elevator from my bedroom to my office. The rest of the time, I’m either in my stretch limousine, my private jet, my helicopter, or my private club in Palm Beach Florida. . . . If I happen to be outside, I’m probably on one of my golf courses, where I protect my hair from overexposure by wearing a golf hat.” Even when Trump tries to relate, he can’t pull it off. In one instance, he complains about awful traffic on the way to the airport. A common gripe. “Luckily,” he adds, “it was my plane we were heading to, my plane, so it’s not as if I could have missed the flight.”Is it any wonder that The Donald is the current political heartthrob of America's ordinary people?