22 Famous Writers on Donald Trump
"Come on, America. Focus."
The literary world has always had close ties to politics—writing is, after all, more or less acknowledged to be an inherently political act. In May, hundreds of writers, including Jennifer Egan, Ha Jin, and Stephen King, signed an open letter opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy. Many writers—being, after all, just like the rest of us—have continued to make their feelings about Trump known on the Internet, and a few of these feelings, culled from sources ranging from Twitter to the New York Times, have been collected here for your perusal. After all, in times like these, it’s worth considering the words and insights of those among us who’ve dedicated their lives to giving voice to thought—but if nothing else, you can at least count on a good writer to come up with an eloquent insult or two.
Stephen King: I am very disappointed in the country. I think that [Trump]’s sort of the last stand of a sort of American male who feels like women have gotten out of their place and they’re letting in all these people that have the wrong skin colors. He speaks to those people. Trump is extremely popular because people would like to have a world where you just didn’t question that the white American was at the top of the pecking order.
Salman Rushdie: Trump will go on trial in November accused of racketeering, and again in December accused of child rape. He is a sexual predator, hasn’t released his tax returns, and has used his foundation’s money to pay his legal fees. He has abused the family of a war hero and… oh, but let’s talk about some emails Hillary didn’t send from someone else’s computer, that weren’t a crime anyway, because that’s how to choose a president. Come on, America. Focus.
Ben Lerner: Trump is so parodic and clownish. His language, since we are talking about literature, is post-semantic and totally post-rational. It’s like when you see a toddler holding something in their hands that they aren’t supposed to be holding and, when you ask them about it, they claim they aren’t holding anything, because they don’t have a very developed strategy for simulation. Trump is similar. But whereas with a toddler it can be cute, with Trump it is terrifying.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: It’s sad reputable media houses have to say things like, ‘We have to make sure that President Obama did not found ISIS. … There’s a part of me that wishes that Hillary Clinton had a proper opponent that she could really debate. It’s a disservice to her intelligence.
Wole Soyinka: The moment they announce his victory, I will cut my green card myself and start packing up.
Margaret Atwood: He brings out the temper-tantrum-throwing willful brat in all of us. ‘Why can’t I do what I want? Why can’t I have what I want? Those other people are stopping me. Those other people have a bigger lollipop that I do, I’m going to take their lollipop away from them. … Hillary Clinton is a better man than Trump. She has more connection to the traditional male virtues. She has comported herself in a much more manly fashion. Ask any real alpha males that you’ll know and they’ll say of Trump, ‘This is the guy we didn’t like at school because he was a bully, but as soon as anyone pushed back at him he started to whine.’
Aleksandar Hemon: [in an essay explaining why he did not sign the aforementioned letter] “I too deplore Trump and everything he and his squirrel-pelt hair stand for.” But also: “There is a good case—literary or not—to be made for ideological continuity between the Bushite and the Trumpite America, but exposing that evolution would require a lot of writing, which might interfere with all the open letters re: present calamity that clamor to be written. Perhaps it is indeed better to let the bygones be bygones, and continue “the great experiment,” even if it’s repeatedly plagued by predictably terrible results. If a reality-TV starlet, continuously high on Viagra and racism, is what it takes to get American writers back into politics, let us welcome the development. Perhaps there is an author among the Open Letter signatories eager to develop a narrative in which Trump—or his hairier, more narratively compelling avatar—wouldn’t be the false cause of our discontent but a symbol of an America struggling to forestall its precipitous intellectual and political decline, to which the absence of its literature from its politics must have contributed.”
Roxane Gay:: He is unfamiliar with where America’s tax rate stands in a global context. He has no understanding of what it would take to ensure that all Americans can receive health care without a federal mandate. He has no understanding of international relations and the travesty that is taking place in Syria or what the word “humanitarian” means. The list goes on, and on. It is crystal clear that a Trump presidency would lead both the United States and the rest of the world into a dystopia the likes of which even the darkest of novelists cannot fathom.
J.K. Rowling: Look towards the Republican Party in America and shudder. ‘Make America Great Again!’ cries a man who is fascist in all but name. His stubby fingers are currently within horrifyingly close reach of America’s nuclear codes. He achieved this pre-eminence by proposing crude, unworkable solutions to complex threats. Terrorism? ‘Ban all Muslims!’ Immigration? ‘Build a wall!’ He has the temperament of an unstable nightclub bouncer, jeers at violence when it breaks out at his rallies and wears his disdain for women and minorities with pride. God help America. God help us all.
Junot Díaz: There’s a long-term tradition of white supremacy in this country. Trump isn’t something entirely new. But then there is the crisis for white supremacy in this country now where you have people of color standing up for themselves in ways that they’ve never stood up for themselves or at least standing up for themselves in a generational, novel way.
Trump is explained with the intersection of a number of things: our economic crisis, the way it’s easier to blame immigrants, with the happenstance that he discovered that by bashing Latino immigrants and characterizing them as “rapists” and “murderers” and “scumbags,” suddenly he’s got this groundswell of support from a group of people who were raised on this vocabulary. Part of it is eight years of a black president, and white America still lost their [minds] about that. Part of it is a Republican politics of vicious, vicious partisan [stuff] that has completely poisoned what we would call the political rhetorical sphere. All of these things come together in a perfect storm.
But, again, I think it’s not uncommon. Trump is what happens in America every time it feels economically and politically threatened, and it encounters the limitations of its own white supremacists practices.
George Saunders: Although, to me, Trump seems the very opposite of a guardian angel, I thank him for this: I’ve never before imagined America as fragile, as an experiment that could, within my very lifetime, fail. But I imagine it that way now.
Peter Carey: I wouldn’t say I’m terrified of New York, but I’m terrified of the United States. I’m terrified of Donald Trump!
Amy Tan: Trump: “If I lose, it’s okay, I go back to a very good way of life.” WTF!? You wreck the GOP, lead an uprising of racists—then play golf?
Cheryl Strayed: We forget that Donald Trump—the guy saying all that awful stuff—that’s one human and that awful stuff rises from his heart. And the only way to change the world in the grand scale is to change the hearts and minds of individuals.
So what if this guy really took a deep look at his own wounds? He’s an example of someone who has decided to stay in rage, just like I was talking about earlier. So for him, a couple of people of the Muslim faith shoot up a center and [that behavior] now applies to people of that faith. He’s decided to tell a story that is about hate and ugliness and rage.
What if he were the kind of person who could make that tiny switch I was just talking about in my life, where you say ‘am I going to stay in rage or am I going to go to that other place?’ I don’t think Trump has ever made that leap probably in anything in his life. So it begins as a tiny thing. I don’t know him. I don’t know what happened to him in his life. But I know that probably all along the way he chose to tell an ugly, small, rage-filled story about himself and the people around him. And then it’s like a stone you throw in the water that resonates outward and beyond. And now it’s on a massive scale. That’s why it’s so dangerous to give people power, to elect someone who doesn’t have a consciousness that is steeped in compassion and love and light.
Terry McMillan: I would hate to be Donald Trump.
Martin Amis: Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end. I mean his sanity: what is the prognosis for his mental health, given the challenges that lie ahead? We should bear in mind, at this point, that the phrase “Power corrupts” isn’t just a metaphor. … With greater resonance, and with more technical garnish (lists of symptoms and giveaways), Trump has been identified as a “pathological narcissist,” a victim, in fact, of narcissistic personality disorder (or N.P.D.). Certainly Trump’s self-approbation goes well beyond everyday egocentricity or solipsism. “My fingers,” he recently explained, “are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my anatomy.” He really does remind you of the original Narcissus, the frigid pretty boy of Greek myth who was mortally smitten by his own reflection. Narcissus is autoerotic; he is self-aroused.
Lee Child: [Jack Reacher]’s a simple guy and he would have a disqualifying thing about Trump straight away. … Trump chickened out of Vietnam. End of story.
Jeffrey Eugenides: I was asked [which literary character reminds you of Trump] the other day as well and finally came up with the Wizard of Oz which I don’t think is a particularly interesting answer. But he is convincing people that he is a magician and would easily be found to be a fraud. He really doesn’t know what he is doing. Yesterday he said there will be a terrible recession, but if he becomes president there won’t be, because he will fix everything. These kinds of statements are completely insane. First, the president, whoever he or she is, cannot control the economy with a single switch. If that was possible we would never have recessions or economic crises. So he reminds me of that. But he is who he is in reality and I am not even sure it’s that interesting to find a corollary in literature for him. He is almost a literary character as he exists now.
John Irving: I don’t take what Trump says seriously, but I am seriously worried about the number of people who are as angry, as ignorant, as misinformed or shallowly informed as he is.
Edmund White: He’s unbearably rude and tragically spontaneous.
Richard Russo: I think it’s pretty clear that so many of the people that I know and love and have been writing about for a long time, alas, have lined up … with Mr. Trump. … I’m heartbroken. … I think America is changing. It’s changing before their eyes and I think that a lot of the angry white men who support Donald Trump have a belief that America has passed them by. And that people who don’t look like them are getting ahead in the new America. And I think they all understand in some ways that Donald Trump is speaking in a less coded way than some others in the Republican Party, but he’s saying Make America white again, not Make America great again. And I think, unfortunately, working class people have bought that. And that’s why my heart is broken.
Ursula K. Le Guin: I tried to think of a headline about Donald Trump that would be unbelievable.
Trump Apologizes For Everything He Ever Said.
Trump Declares Himself Next Dalai Lama.
Trump Relieves Himself on Fox TV Newscaster on Fox TV.
Trump Dumps Wife, Woos Mrs. Cruz.
These are implausible, but are they unbelievable? The last two aren’t even very implausible.
Is anything about the current behavior of the Republican Party satirisable, or has it entered the Trump Zone – you can’t make it weirder than it is?