Sunday, September 11, 2005


Trump card

When it comes to building tall, vulgar residential towers with pink marble lobbies and gold-plated spigots in the powder room, Mark Singer is an abject failure. When it comes to writing, he's damn good. How delicious, then, to see Donald Trump patronizing him in the Letters page of The New York Times Book Review, simply because he had the nerve to write a quasi-snarky profile of the billionaire developer back in 1997. Jeff MacGregor, who had reviewed a collection of Singer's profiles in a previous issue, actually took him to task for blasting away at a clay pigeon like the Donald:
The only instance in which Singer throws and lands a sucker punch is in a 1997 profile of the pre-"Apprentice" Donald Trump, in which his tone becomes a little arch. That Trump is already a caricature of a caricature makes him too easy a target, with neither the foot speed nor the wit to defend himself. A harder thing to do, perhaps impossible, would have been to find the one lonely component of Trump's character that wasn't manufactured as a brand strategy. It is a small quibble, certainly, as most New Yorkers, including me, would readily climb the arch in Washington Square to drop a flowerpot filled with nasturtiums on Trump's astonishing head if given half a chance to do so.
That Trump would relish neither the original profile nor MacGregor's review is understandable. That he would respond by declaring himself a better writer than either is what lifts this spat into the empyrean of amusement. If you put on your Trumpian spectacles, you can certainly follow his argument. Hasn't he published volume after volume of bestselling rubbish, all of them cobbled together by ghostwriters? And doesn't writing, like building those residential towers or managing a bankrupt casino empire, derive from "a simple thing called talent"? No doubt. Yet the Donald wants to cite some outside evidence, a third-party observer, so he turns to a recent essay about ghostwriting by Joe Queenan. Here's what Trump says:
I've been a best-selling author for close to 20 years. Whether you like it or not, facts are facts. The highly respected Joe Queenan mentioned in his article "Ghosts in the Machine" (March 20) that I had produced "a steady stream of classics" with "stylistic seamlessness" and that the "voice" of my books remained noticeably constant to the point of being an "astonishing achievement." This was high praise coming from an accomplished writer.
As Doctor Evil likes to say, right. A glance at Queenan's article shows the author, himself a top-drawer dispenser of snark, in a quietly antic mode:
One of the few "authors" who have succeeded in avoiding the pitfalls that increasingly ensnare ghostwritees is Donald Trump. In the past 18 years, Trump has put his name on a steady stream of classics, while using various collaborators. Yet throughout this long literary interlude he has managed to maintain tight quality control. For example, in the seminal Trump: The Art of the Deal, which appeared in 1987, the ghostwriter Tony Schwartz delivered the Trumpian goods in a clipped, staccato, tough-guy style, opening the book with the words:

"I don't do it for the money. I've got enough, much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it."

Seventeen years later, Trump's new book, Trump: Think Like a Billionaire, written with Meredith McIver, kicks off:

"In a world of more than six billion people, there are only 587 billionaires. It's an exclusive club. Would you like to join us?"

It has been said that Thomas Mann began writing The Confessions of Felix Krull as a young man, put it aside for decades, then picked up the narrative exactly where he left off. Similar stylistic seamlessness typifies Trump's work. The intermediaries may come and go, but the Donaldian voice never wavers. This is a truly astonishing achievement.
I assume that Trump is the only person on earth not to realize that Queenan is yanking his chain. But's let do a hypothetical. You, the reader, are also confused about Queenan's tone, with its artful deployment of all seven kinds of ambiguity. Fine. Let me point you toward two clues. First, his description of Trump: The Art of the Deal as "seminal"--an adjective whose patent absurdity goes off like a signal flair. Next, a quick jab to the kidney that even the Donald should have noted: his characterization as an "author," complete with pretension-bursting quotation marks. The guy is clueless. His letter was certainly ghostwritten. I almost feel sorry for him at this juncture. But not so much that I'd refrain from dropping that pot of nasturtiums on his head. Is that mean of me? Facts, I'm afraid, are facts.

Somehow , though it has its amusing aspect, this Trump item probably doesn't rise to the level of attention worthiness. By way of trying to explain what I mean, I guess two other names (I almost used the word "people") come to mind: Paris Hilton and Pam Anderson.

Personally, I feel there is something tainted or degraded about making up sentences with names as such as the subjects—they are beyond parody or cartoon. Pet rocks have more life or humor...

If I were watching a news program and these names came up , other than for their obituaries, I would say that it was a slow news night (or something worse).

Apropos of nothing or perhaps something worse, when Charlie Rose spent an hour on Steve WInn I knew that he (Rose) had crossed over the line to being a simpering & syncophantic court toady.

Silly greedy people ———yikes!
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