January 24, 2017

Philip Roth

At the New Yorker, Judith Thurman emails with Philip Roth about the similarities between the Trump presidency and the presidency of Charles Lindbergh, which Roth invented for his novel The Plot Against America. Roth writes that a Lindbergh presidency makes more sense than a Trump presidency: “Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance. . . . Trump is just a con artist.” According to Roth, the book that is a better explanation of Trump is Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man, “the darkly pessimistic, daringly inventive novel—Melville’s last—that could just as well have been called ‘The Art of the Scam.’”

National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas talks to Time magazine about the National Book Awards, reaching the 27 percent of Americans who didn’t read a single book in the past year, and her recommended reading for President Trump. “We were so lucky to have such a wonderful reader in President Obama, who said that reading novels helped to make him a better citizen,” said Lucas, and recommended that Trump take a look at Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Arlie Russell Hoschschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning. She also recommended books by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, as well as Nate Powell’s March trilogy, the third book of which recently won four American Library Association awards.

The Independent profiles Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media and the man behind all @POTUS tweets not marked “DJT.” Scavino, whom Trump met as a golf caddy on one of his courses, often promotes fake news on his personal social media, is a follower of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and has been tweeting for Trump since the presidential campaign. The Trump team says Scavino has been responsible for some of the Trump account’s most notorious tweets: He posted an image, which had originated on a neo-Nazi website, of Hillary Clinton with what appeared to be a Star of David (he said it was a “sheriff’s badge”) and the words, “Most corrupt candidate ever,” and he is the source of the famous misspellings, such as “honered,” “leightweight,” and, most memorably, “unpresidented.”

The New York Times has apologized for an ill-advised article about fathers who took care of their kids while their partners were rallying at the women’s march. “How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out as They Left to March” caused an immediate outcry from readers. The article’s author, Filip Bondy, says “I deserved it,” explaining that the article was meant to be lighthearted, “but these are not light times.”  

Tonight at McNally Jackson books, Ottessa Moshfegh reads from her short-story collection, Homesick for Another World. In a recent review of the book, Moira Donegan notes that Moshfegh “makes her readers voyeuristically complicit in her depictions of poverty, compulsion, and physical decay. At the same time, she dares us to identify with these characters in their petty vanities and indulgences.”

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