On November 4, the warrior bards at Calliope Group will release the revised edition of American Neolithic, updated to reflect new science and ancient urges. Kirkus Reviews called it “a towering work of speculative fiction.” Who are we to argue? And—what a coincidence! It’s available for preorder right here!
Donald Trump has been backing away from his old chum Jeffrey Epstein with a speed that has Einstein spinning like a lathe. And really, who could blame him? While the methmouth grampappies in his trailerpark base gave him a nod and one-eyed wink at the pussy-grabbing tape and a knowing nudge in the ribs when he rawdogged a pornstar while the wife’s episiotomy was still scabbing, even they might shudder, just a bit, at his chilling with a pedophile.
And while there is little to associate Trump with pedophilia except his association with Epstein, frequently reported intrusion into teenage girls’ dressing rooms in the Miss Universe Pageant, and of course open erotic fascination with his own daughter—I’ll just stop there.
What is of interest, however momentarily, as the Epstein scandal unfolds in the Southern District, is Trump’s storied taste for prostitutes. I choose my words carefully. Trump famously—and he thought, rhetorically—asked James Comey whether he looked like the kind of guy who’d have to pay for hookers. (He actually looks like the kind of guy who’d be courtside center at the Tuesday afternoon matinee at the Beaver Trap in Muncie, but leave that aside.) But—again, having chosen my words carefully—Trump’s fondness for daughters of the game was sufficiently well-known in 90’s New York to find its way into the ouvre of a major American writer.
Jonathan Ames’ 1998 novel The Extra Man is a melancholy-hysterical portrait of life in early-nineties Manhattan, still recovering from the Bush recession—GHWB’s, not W’s. Its narrator is a young man freshly fired from the faculty of an elite prep school for trying on a colleague’s bra. He takes a squalid room on the Upper East Side from the title character, who enhances the impoverished lifestyle of a failed playwright and Queensborough College adjunct by serving as an extra man at the parties of aged socialites. On one occasion, he accompanies one such mummified date to Palm Beach for high-society New Years and reports the following:
Trump tried to break in again. He threw a party at Mar-a-Lago the night of the Red Cross Ball. Said he was going to have beautiful models. They were nothing but prostitutes, and at the end of the party they did the inevitable—jumped into the pool. So he’s finished for another year. Too vulgar. (p.308.)
Of course, in 1998 Trump was just a multiply bankrupt laughingstock , opposed to his present position as most powerful person in the world and laughingstock. Yet as this fictive kernel from his past suggests, back in the day, he was known to pay.
So one wonders, as the Epstein case is prosecuted not by the organized crime unit, but public corruption, just what public officials were the co-conspirators in the sweetheart deal US Attorney Alex Acosta—now, somehow, Labor Secretary—went to such extraordinary lengths to craft.
Get off the ledge! Get that gun out of your mouth! I’m delighted to announce that American Neolithic’s hiatus ends this fall with a new, revised edition from Calliope Group, complete with a foreword by no less than John Crowley. Cavemen of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your cartoonishly oversized clubs!
The Company of Writers is delighted that Blanche McCrary Boyd, who appeared at our January 2015 workshop in Brooklyn, is a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her novel Tomb of the Unknown Racist. Those lucky enough to have been there were struck by her generous encouragement of other writers less sure and powerful than she—that is, all of us. I was honored to read the first couple of chapters of Tomb when she joined us. She’s the smart-looking person at the head of the table, by the way; I’m the pink-faced guy at the end.
Newly-declared Dem White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren doubled down on today’s shocking admissions with a series of even more startling allegations and demands.
This morning an Iowa voter brought up an episode the Bay State progressive probably wished forgotten by asking why Warren had caved to her likely opponent’s demand that she take a DNA test. In response, Warren flabbergasted her audience by conceding that she was not, in fact, a person of color.
She further stunned the still-reeling crowd with a barrage of accusations and demands.
“Look,” she said, “maybe I made a mistake by not telling the fat bastard ‘Sure, I’ll take a DNA test—if you get on a real scale. Two-thirty-nine? You haven’t weighed that since your hair wasn’t fake.’
“But speaking of fake, let’s get hold of your DNA, Donnie. ‘Cause you know what I think? There’s a lot going on there that’s crookeder than your tax returns! I mean, you look at you and those kids of yours, you know someone peed in your gene pool. Brother and sister grandparents? Who knows—but Eric and Donnie Junior look like tapeworms and Tiffany, well, Tiffy should be hanging onto a crack stem behind the WalMart. And talking about the boy, that’s just mean, so I won’t.
“Oh but wait! I forgot one! You line them all up and you say, there’s one that doesn’t look like she belongs! Three-digit IQ! Meets your eyes when she talks to you! Pretty—hell, forget pretty, she has a normal chin!”
Warren shook her head in disbelief. “I dunno, folks, I’m thinking Shroomdick Donnie—” the audience gasped audibly as she deployed a nickname popular in press circles since the publication of Stormy Daniels’ memoir “—-Shroomdick Donnie sure didn’t have a lot to do with getting that bun in the oven. Maybe the tennis pro. Or the doorman. Not him, ‘Course, it explains a lot. In fact—”
Warren stopped and smiled. “Nah. Not now.”
A Trump spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined comment.
The present crisis in American government is rooted not in some structural defect the Founders never imagined, but rather, the Faustian bargain at the heart of the modern-day GOP: government by the stupidest thirty-five per cent of the electorate.
Time was when the Republican Party was the home of pinstriped Ivy League fiscal conservatives and Cold Warrior mandarins in the image of William F. Buckley and George H.W. Bush. Today it harbors gibbering flat-earthers like James “Jimmy the Chimp” Jordan and Trey “Goober” Gowdy. And of course its titular and actual leader, Donald “Shroomdick Donny” Trump—fat, lazy, bankrupt, and unschooled, a squirming sack of appetites and rage.
But wait, you say. If he’s stupid, how did he get to be president?
Easy. Because he says what stupid people think. That’s his base—stupid people.
Oh, I know. We’re not supposed to say that. See, the real beneficiaries of political correctness are not transgendered troops or kneeling athletes. No, it’s the knuckle-dragging cousin spawn who blow spittle all over the phone when they rave about Uranium One over their third PBR of the morning calling in to AM talkshows. Stung by the backlash to Hillary’s too-moderate description of the Trump base as “a basket of deplorables,” the media gently refers to it as “poorly educated older whites.”
Is “dumb fucking hillbillies” so hard to say?
Trump knew his base and knew he’d get their support by saying what they thought. Because he was what poor people think a rich guy looks like—fat, lamptanned, MetArt wife—they felt empowered when he repeated the uninformed nonsense they screamed at the TV. And when he actually got elected, they were not only empowered, but vindicated—we must be right, because the President says it!
If it were just a matter of Presidential electoral politics, that might not be so bad. He’d just ramp up the idiotic rhetoric and racist hatemongering six months before polling day and revert into something like pragmatism in the interval.
But sadly, that’s not enough. As the present crisis proves beyond rebuttal, he can’t just say what stupid people think—he has to do what stupid people think.
That’s how we got to the shutdown. As the President’s newly-minted and likely to be short-lived Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in a now-regretted soundbite, the idea of a border wall is “childish.” But Trump, knowing his supporters, pounded it through their heads that only a cardboard fort would protect them from the brown boogiemen storming across the Rio Grande to steal their jobs and rape their poodles. But when he acted as though he could ignore his own bullshit in the interest of normal governance, Base tribunes Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh grabbed him by his cheap Turkish-made overlong tie and told him nothing doing—you made this monster, now you’re feeding it.
So Trump is stuck. And so are we.
Okay, the title may be slightly misleading. This isn’t a memory about Christmas. But it is a memory, and this is Christmas.
Sadly, because my phone was out of power I cannot document the most bizarre episode of 2014 to date. Hence this picture glommed from the internet. What happened is this:
Mrs H and I were headed to an early Sunday evening dinner at a bistro called Martell in Southport. Just to get you oriented, Jack Welch lives in Southport. To provide further context, I parked my 2009 Prius with the permadent next to a Ferrari. It was not the only one in the lot.
As we were approaching a Tesla Mrs H cried out, "My God, what is in the back of that car?" I approached cautiously. There appeared to be a dozen little white puffy balls bouncing in the air in the back seat. I wondered whether there was some kind of weird airblown toy that had been left on by mistake, or whether there were a bunch of white pawed puppies rolling on their backs.
I got to the window. For a moment, nothing made sense. I couldn't process what I saw. Then my eye lighted on the water bowl and the feed. And then the beaks. "Jesus Christ," I said. "It's birds! It's a dozen fucking giant birds! In the back of a fucking Tesla!" Somehow, it being a Tesla made it all worse.
Did I mention Mrs H hates birds? And that she's just coming back from a flu? That probably explains why she bolted for the restaurant door.
It gets better. We got seated almost immediately. Hey, early bird special. So to speak. But as we're headed to our table I see this other couple. The lady had her back to me. She's wearing a fleece on which is crudely embroidered a representation of the same bird I'd just seen. Mrs H sees where I'm looking and says, "Oh please. No. You can't."
"I have to," I say. She takes her seat and buries her face in her hands as I approach the lady in the bird fleece.
"Excuse me," I say, "do you own a Tesla?"
"Yes," says the man with her. "How did you know it was ours?"
I resist the temptation to tell him that it's because it's full of the same birds your lady is wearing you hopeless whack. Instead I offer the slightly toned down "I happened to see the birds in the back and noticed your shirt. What kind of birds are they, may I ask?"
"Polish crested chickens," she says. "Show birds."
"Oh," I said. "They're lovely."
I get back to the table. "Chickens," I say. "Polish chickens." She is greenish white. She rolls her eyes to the adjoining table. One of our fellow diners is digging into the chicken Reisling. "That's what I was going to have," she says. "But now I think maybe steak. Unless you saw a cow in the parking lot?"
Every. Last. Word. True.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting down in Atlanta with mutigenre literary entrepreneur Cliff Brooks. A distinguished poet and gentleman of the old school, he is also the founder of the Southern Collective Experience and Blue Mountain Review.
Among his more recent exploits is a public radio show called Dante’s Old South. Comprising literary interviews, poetry, philosophy, and music, it puts you in mind of a hyperliterate Prairie Home Companion. That is, before Keillor got rich, old, and in trouble. Listen to it here.
“Orwellian” is a word formerly overused just a hair more that “kafkaesque.” I say formerly because neither is adequate to describe the spluttering antics of the fat man with tanning-bed-goggle eyes who now occupies the pinnacle of power in the world. Or more aptly the gyrations of his quisling enablers. For example, Lindsay Graham, who now that a man of principle he claimed as friend is safely dead, pivots to take a load of presidential semen in the face and asks for more.
George Orwell was born to privilege. Educated at Eton, he went on to imperial civil service as a police commissioner in Burma in the 1920’s. Sickened by his experience, he became a passionate socialist and anti-imperialist and, coincidentally, one of the foremost prose stylists of the twentieth century.
But that’s not all. He walked the walk. He sure did. In 1936 he shipped for Barcelona and joined the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. He stayed true to the cause despite the lice and hunger and boredom of the trenches and the sordid political infighting of the high command. He got a great book out of it—Homage to Catalonia. And one night he also got a bullet in the throat, one that just barely missed his carotid. Nevertheless he stayed in Spain to keep up the fight until he learned that not only the fascists wanted him dead, but the Soviets who’d infiltrated the anti-fascist ranks as well.
During World War II he served as a commentator for the BBC. His literary career exploded shortly after war’s end with Animal Farm and 1984. The former book blew up the hypocrisies of Stalinist tyranny; the latter went several steps further with a dystopian future surveillance state in which free thought was eliminated by both totalitarian brutality and the overwhelming gibberish of propaganda.
Strangely, despite an extremely public career that included a stint as a broadcaster, there are neither video nor audio records of Orwell. Thus we are left to imagine how he moved and what he sounded like.
The BBC fixed this, to the extent it can be fixed, with an entirely imaginary documentary about Orwell comprising completely fictitious newsreel and interview footage. Christopher Langham appears to channel the man. Or so I think.
I’ve posted about this before. After a campaign season in which the fat man with the funny hair and his trailerpark magahats dominated the mediasphere with lies and top-of-the-voice nonsense, I thought it was worth conjuring up again the shade of a man who understood the necessity of clear expression to clear thought.
Here’s the link to the video. Watch it.
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders could barely control her anger when describing Halloween’s verbal assault on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.
Her statement came after what she described as “well-organized and musically talented left-wing Francophones” disrupted a restaurant gathering that included the recently confirmed rapist-monarchist as well as the Sunshine State’s pro-slavery Trump acolyte.
Sanders’ celebrated asymmetrical scowl was even more lopsided than usual when she took the podium today. “As you and the American people know,” she began, “Brett Kavanaugh and Ron DeSantis are top graduates of Yale University and like former President George Bush are alumni of its service oriented DKE fraternal organization. When they and some of their fraternity brothers found themselves here in Washington DC when soon to be Governor DeSantis was taking a break from the campaign trail and Justice Kavanaugh needed some time off from undoing the last hundred and fifty years, naturally they decided to meet up with some old frat buddies at a popular Washington watering hole.
“Because it was Halloween,” Sander continued, “they decided to dress up in their old frat uniforms. They got to the restaurant and they had a few beers.” Sanders paused and then added defiantly, “They like beer.”
“What happened next has luckily been captured on cellphone video. As you can see Justice B, as we call him, and Governor Ron are having a good old time swinging the tankards and singing their alma mater, Bright College Years, which through no fault of theirs is a German military drinking song,
“And in a breach of the very same civility the crybaby never-Trump anti-nationalist globalist elite keeps whimpering for, the Democrat Antifa thugs break up a fun private party with a song in a foreign European language that promotes socialist concepts like liberty, equality, and brotherhood.”
Sanders paused a moment to wipe spittle from the microphone. “But see this disgusting, outrageous, ridiculous display for yourselves. Here it is.”