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- The Best Reviewed Books of the WeekMay 25, 2018
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Timothy Denevi was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland this morning, to begin his coverage of the Republican National Convention for Lit Hub this afternoon. However, we woke up this morning to find the following dispatch in our inbox.
1:46am: I’m now drinking a Coors Light in Youngstown, Ohio—at a hotel called the California Palms, which I refuse to describe, except to say that the stench of chlorine is not nearly as overwhelming as its endless, aquamarine carpets—and I’ve just opened my computer to see The New York Times recap of the Republican National Convention’s first night, specifically the headline: TRUMP’S INSPIRATION? NIXON IS THE ONE.
I’ve driven all evening from Washington, DC; I was still on the beltway listening to the live convention broadcast when Scott Baio said, “Hillary Clinton wants to be president for her. Donald Trump wants to be president for everybody.” And I went straight for the mute button after that.
Instead, for the last four hours, I’ve been listening to Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail: ’72—as read by a certain Scott Sowers, who unfortunately tends to come off like a very drunk Lewis Black—and to pass the time I’ve been reciting passages from it into my phone, which were then recorded in the form of manic, punctuation-free audio notes:
the question of richard nixons moral relationship with the ghost of adolph hitler
he will stop at nothing trashing anything that gets in his way
it is nixon himself who represents that dark venal and incurably violent side of the american character almost every other country in the world has learned to fear and despise
our babie doll president with his barbie doll wife and his boxfull of barbie doll children is also americas answer to the monstrous mr hyde
he speaks to the werewolf in us
the bully the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable full of claws and bleeding string warts
this may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves
finally just lay back and say it
that we are a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable
what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been
if we had kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like richard nixon
I hadn’t planned to use any of this. Or to mention Campaign Trail at all, except to explain, at some point much later down the line, that I happen to be writing a book about Hunter S. Thompson and his professional relationship to psychopharmacology…
And then I opened my computer to find that Donald Trump and his “allies,” as a political tactic, have chosen to make purposeful comparisons to Richard Milhous Nixon—to a man who less than two generations ago, climbed out of the White House in the middle of the night, leapt fifty feet to the lawn below, and strangled the Chow watch dog before loping like a hyena in heat toward the nearest enemy he could smell…
“In an evening of severe speeches evoking the tone and themes of Nixon’s successful 1968 campaign, Mr. Trump’s allies and aides proudly portrayed him as the heir to the disgraced former president’s law-and-order message, his mastery of political self-reinvention and his rebukes of overreaching liberal government.”
Tomorrow will be a very long day. I’ll need to finish the drive to Cleveland in the morning. Park somewhere in the vicinity of St. John’s Episcopal Church. And join in the “Unite to Stop the Hate at the RNC” march, which is set to begin just before noon.
But enough of all that. Suddenly the clock reads 4:01AM and even the cars on the interstate are hissing by with ominous infrequency. I’m telling you the truth when I say that I really did open my computer here at the California Palms with the honest intention of only jotting down a few a moody, doomstruck descriptions of the drive itself—a lens on the events to come, as it were—in a tone that in my mind I imagined as a sort Michael Ondaatje/Annie Dillard hybrid. Think disbelief and crippling ennui. Sentences like: The full moon following you all the way up through the Alleghenies. And: Flashing down the valley over the river with the mountains hiding Pittsburgh and its lights. And so forth.
Instead: “In emulating Nixon, Mr. Trump has chosen an unusual and tarnished figure as a source of inspiration.” And: “It was a remarkable embrace—open and unhesitating.”
Which is not what you should be reading if you’re hoping to calm yourself before a few hours of much needed sleep.
“History doesn’t repeat itself,” the article finally concludes—quoting Nixon’s son-in-law Edward F. Cox, who at least appears to be only half-hyena. “But it’s certainly rhyming.”