It’s time for a new installment of Hate Book Club! If you need a refresher, Patricia Ladd and I are reading books we think we will hate, and then reviewing them. Each post has to include a graph, a summarizing GIF, and at least some positive comments (sarcasm is allowed). I’m also doing little report cards at the end. Go read Patricia’s review!
Usually on Hate Book Club, my friend Patricia and I try to keep it timeless, by hopping around all the most hateable books in world literature. Well, okay, at least American literature. But this month we’ve chosen a book that couldn’t be timelier. Except maybe if we’d chosen it last month instead.
Yes: Trump: The Art of the Deal, by Donald J. Trump and Tony Ghostwriter. What can we learn about 2016’s most terrifying presidential candidate by reading his 1987 self-help-slash-memoir guide to dealmaking?
A lot, it turns out. The first thing we learn is: Donald Trump can be really, really, really dull. I bet you’re thinking Trump: The Art of the Deal would be outrageous, or cringe-inducing, or full of Trump saying outrageous things. It’s not. It is tedious as shit.
Imagine your dream book. How many times do you want to read the phrase “tax abatement” in your dream book? Only, like, 5 times, right? Well, Donald Trump talks about tax abatements a whole lot more than 5 times in The Art of the Deal. See, this is not a book of advice. It’s a rote, moment-by-moment retelling of all his most successful deals, conveniently leaving out all the stuff that you would expect him to conveniently leave out. But, as much as Trump leaves out about his failings or secret schemes, he includes a lot of really dull stuff.
Sample quote: “On April 14, 1985, we sat down in Jerry Schrager’s offices at 101 Park Avenue, with the lawyers from both sides, to get the deal done.” This is describing part of a negotiation for part of a deal. Who cares what day it happened? Who cares in whose office it happened, and at what address the office was? And since Jerry Schrager is a lawyer, why does he need to say lawyers were there?
Aww, you’re thinking, doesn’t this have any of Trump at his putrid 2015 worst? Well, yes and no. He’s eminently more reasonable in the book, and of course much more dull. Occasionally he even feigns modesty, claiming, for instance, that the media only cares about him because of his indulgent lifestyle and bold risks. But the Trump we all know and love/hate still pops up in The Art of the Deal, sometimes. Like his description of a translator at a business meeting: “She was a true Latin beauty, and all of us were somewhat distracted.” Or his description of his house: “While I can’t honestly say I need an eighty-foot-long living room, I do get a kick out of having one.”
The only thing that occurs in this book more frequently than endless crap about what lawyer showed up to what meeting, and how they had to sue the city to get some tax break, and how this building site required some special stupid permit to build a skyscraper on–the only thing more frequent is Trump talking about himself. Which happens. A lot.
Biographer (and Great Writer) Edmund Morris once said of Theodore Roosevelt, “he had a love for the first-person pronoun that bordered on the erotic.” If that’s the case, then Donald Trump has a love for the first-person pronoun that borders on that kind of porno where seven guys take the same girl from different angles.
There was a lot of the word “I” in the book. In fact, the word “I” appears in Trump 2,726 times.
As you can see above, the most uses of I on one page is page 49, which has 33 different I’s. (This includes contractions like I’ll, but not quotations, unless they were Trump quoting his own writing in other publications. Me and my were not included.) Of the 243 pages in The Art of the Deal, only 7 (2.9%) do not contain the word I. Two of the seven are about his parents. The book averages 11.31 I’s per page.
How does Trump achieve this? Through passages like: “I get a call from a guy who sells and leases corporate airplanes. I’ve been considering buying a G-4, the jet that most corporations use. I tell the guy on the phone that I’m still interested in a plane, but that he should keep his eye out for a 727, which is what I really want.”
Did you come to this blog post hoping for insight into Trump’s presidential candidacy? There’s not much you didn’t already know. The dude’s a narcissist. He knows exactly what he’s doing, too, and his campaign strategy is in his book. (“Good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.”) (“I like to think I have that instinct. That’s why I don’t hire a lot of number-crunchers, and I don’t trust fancy marketing surveys. I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions.”) (“I can be a screamer when I want to be.”)
He is occasionally insightful. “I’ve never had any great moral problems with gambling because most of the objections seem hypocritical to me. The New York Stock Exchange happens to be the biggest casino in the world.” (Even in the presidential debates, I’m grateful to Trump for coining the awesome new word “braggadocious”.)
Really there is only one truly new insight to be had from reading Trump: The Art of the Deal. And that addresses a question people have had: what do you get when you strip away the layers of racism, bigotry, populist rage, and braggadociousness?
Well, you get the kind of asshole who stops you at a party, when you’d really like to go get another cocktail, so that he can tell you all about the twelve business transactions he just concluded, because he wants to impress upon you just how cool he is, and he doesn’t care if there was somebody else you wanted to talk to instead.
And Donald Trump is like that asshole in another way, too. He’s boring.
Conclusion in GIF Form
P.S. Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz has publicly claimed this book as 100% his work, saying, “I wrote The Art of the Deal. Donald Trump read it.” Dude, are you stupid? DO NOT TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS.
P.P.S. Here’s Patricia’s review!
Hate Book Club Report Card
(all scores on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most)
Hateability of message: 3
Hateability of writing style: 10
Pleasure derived from hating book: 2