I didn’t want to pick this piece for my Sunday read. I wanted to get as far away from Donald Trump as possible. After the week we just had, I wanted to choose something uplifting, inspiring, something that would make Sunday great again.
But there it was, in the latest New Yorker: “Trump Days,” a many-thousand-word piece by George Saunders. I had to blink twice when I saw that byline. I thought at first it said George Packer, the regular New Yorker contributor whose fine book, “The Unwinding,” chronicled an America plunging into the 2007-08 financial crash. But no, it was George Saunders, the short-story maestro of “Tenth of December” and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.”
I’m rather lukewarm on George Saunders. The stories I’ve read are obviously full of imagination, but they’re a little oddball chilly for my taste. His narrators sometimes sound like disappointed after-dinner speakers reciting the 1980s works of T.C. Boyle, back when the “C” stood for “Coraghessan.”
But “Trump Days,” except for a strange reference of Trump calling Hillary Clinton “Lyin’ Crooked” — a mixture of his nicknames for Hillary and Ted Cruz — really tries to grapple with the Donald phenomenon: Saunders, a man admittedly from what he calls LeftLand, talking with the members of RightLand to find out why they’ve invested their passion in a pro-wrestling presidential candidate.
Ironically, some of Saunders’ most incisive statements aren’t from him at all, but from Norman Mailer, whom he quotes a few times:
American Presidential campaigns are not about ideas; they are about the selection of a hero to embody the prevailing national ethos. “Only a hero,” Mailer wrote, “can capture the secret imagination of a people, and so be good for the vitality of his nation; a hero embodies the fantasy and so allows each private mind the liberty to consider its fantasy and find a way to grow. Each mind can become more conscious of its desire and waste less strength in hiding from itself.” What fantasy is Drumpf giving his supporters the liberty to consider? What secret have they been hiding from themselves?
That’s Mailer from “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” incidentally, another excellent Sunday read. It would have been interesting to read Norman Mailer on Donald Trump directly, one ego clashing with another. But Mailer is dead. Sad!
Anyway, there you have it. A look not so much at Donald Trump but Donald Trump’s America and what Donald Trump’s America sees in Donald Trump. Today’s Sunday read. It’s a great Sunday read, the best. Read it now. Even you haters and losers!