“It would have been easy for Donald to be a hero,” writes Mary Trump, President and Ultimate Member of the Book of the Month Club Donald Trump’s niece and seemingly one of the only people in the Trump clan capable of human emotion, self-reflection, and complex thought, in the epilogue of her recently published, much anticipated, and even more litigated book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
This is one of the many, many things I’ve always found curious about the President: that he so clearly yearns to be adored, worshipped even, but is incapable of doing anything that would motivate the wider American public, beyond his rabid, red hat-sporting death cult members, to do so. Instead of rising to the occasion no matter what it is–the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Maria, mass shootings, rampant police brutality, etc.–Trump makes, without fail, the most vicious, moronic, and lazy choices that could only inspire outrage from anyone with common sense and basic human decency. Rather than creating a national mask mandate, for example, he poses with a smattering of Goya products on the Resolute Desk like he just won Supermarket Sweep. Though there are many to choose from, this seems to be his tragic flaw. It’s not as if it would be hard to impress Americans at this point by simply doing the bare minimum but, he’s not just unwilling, he’s unable.
And while I know this, it’s certainly nice to see someone else say so, particularly Mary Trump who is both a clinical psychologist and a Trump family member. This is a winning combination, which transforms a book full of family trauma, selfish shit shows, and rich people behaving badly into the most insightful, incisive analysis of Donald Trump’s psyche that I’ve read thus far (I think I’ve made it obvious that I devour anything and everything about the filthiest president alive). Starting with the former, Mary’s psychology background means no more armchair diagnoses or theorizing from people who just witness Trump ramble nonsensically in the Rose Garden with sweat pouring down his burned meat complexion like hot dogs that have lingered, spinning, too long in Sheetz. Beyond just her clinical education, Mary’s own position in the family as the daughter of Fred Trump’s disappointment, his late eldest son Freddy, makes her enough of an outsider (though she sadly retains the sickening, skin-crawling nickname “Honeybunch”) to deftly scrutinize the rest of the family. As she notes, “No one knows how Donald came to be who he is better than his own family. Unfortunately, almost all of them remain silent out of loyalty or fear. I’m not hindered by either of those.” Yikes.
Too Much and Never Enough isn’t a long read–only a short and sweet 240 pages as opposed to John Bolton’s brutal nearly 600-page slog. And unlike Bolton, Mary didn’t put pen to paper in order to revise her embarrassing legacy. Instead, she uses her long-suffering familial position as a means to scrutinize how exactly this Frankenstein’s monster of America’s worst impulses–“a serially bankrupt businessman and irrelevant reality show host to ascend to the White House”– was created. The answer, the book argues, lies within the family, more specifically its generational obsession with wealth above all, toxic masculinity, and avoiding weakness at all costs, even if it means lying, cheating, or stealing your way out of vulnerability.
Beginning with the President’s great grandfather’s immigration to North America from Germany in order to avoid mandatory military service (maybe he had bone spurs), sustaining himself by owning restaurants and brothels in British Columbia, Donald’s heritage is one of scammers, con artists, and grifters. Overall, Too Much and Never Enough depicts a dually tragic and clownish family history that lies somewhere at the intersection of Greek tragedy, Shakespeare (if King Lear was white trash), pure farce, and Succession.
In particular, the book reveals how Big Daddy Fred Trump’s sociopathic pressure on his two eldest sons, Freddy and Donald (the daughters, Maryanne and Elizabeth, and his youngest son Robert barely even registered as human beings let alone important enough to traumatize) permanently warped both their psyches in different but equally unsalvageable and deadly ways. In his drive to make his children into “killers,” as Mary explains, “code for being invulnerable,” Fred drove Freddy into an alcoholic spiral (Who wouldn’t need a drink or 10 in this family!) as he struggled with wanting to both please his father and escape. As Freddy fell, Donald rose to the occasion with his unmatched talent in bullshit. Donald, driven in part by his brother’s failure, maniacally constructed his own gaudy illusion of success when he was really being propped up by Papa Freddy through, for instance, buying millions of dollars worth of casino chips at Trump’s Castle.
I don’t want to say that Too Much and Never Enough humanizes Trump exactly or makes you feel for his psychological predicament. But it does shed light on his actions. There’s no way that anyone could emerge from this group of grotesque gargoyles unscathed, since the rest of the family wasn’t really any better than Fred. Succession’s Ewan Roy says it best:
Ultimately, Mary depicts Trump’s sociopathic and narcissistic behavior as inherited. Throughout the book, Donald emerges as a buffoonish and eerie echo of his father. Sometimes he even literally mirrors his father’s word choices (Fred apparently loved simple exclamations like “great,” “fantastic,” “perfect,” as well as the recognizable, quintessential Trump retort, “That’s nasty”) and mannerisms, such as remaining seated in a meeting while everyone else stands as a power move (one of the most chilling scenes is Mary’s reflection on watching Trump in an Oval Office meeting dead-on mimic how her grandfather conducted himself, like some garish version of The Godfather). There is an essential difference, though. Fred was a ruthlessly efficient businessman even if he never reached Manhattan; Donald is, instead, all façade. He’s woefully inadequate in business yet impressively successful at fooling the banks, the press, and eventually, the American people with his superficial displays of tacky opulence.
Devouring the book in two days, I don’t wonder why Trump tried so hard to evoke Mary’s NDA (who asks family members to sign NDAs anyway?) because I wouldn’t exactly want to be on the receiving end of Mary’s brutal truth-telling either. Take, for example, this line: “Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered every moment because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be. He knows he has never been loved.”
Not that she’s wrong. In fact, the book ends with a damning conclusion that implicates us all: Trump’s skewed mentality reflects America’s own disastrous optimism, bolstered by an obsession with capitalistic success that borders on the homicidal and suicidal. This isn’t just the case of one family of ogres. They’re…US. As she writes, “Donald’s monstrosity is the manifestation of the very weakness within him that he’s been running from his entire life. For him, there has never been any option but to be positive, to project strength, no matter how illusory, because doing anything else carries a death sentence; my father’s short life is evidence of that. The country is now suffering from the same toxic positivity that my grandfather deployed specifically to drown out his ailing wife, torment his dying son, and damaged past healing the psyche of his favorite child, Donald J. Trump.” Our national image of being the “greatest country in the world” –the best, the brightest, the bravest, the boldest–isn’t just an elaborate ruse to cover up a crumbling wasteland dump, but it’s actively killing our citizens. The American dream, as evidenced by the Trump family, is a killer alright.
As I’ve done with the other Trump-related books, since I know not everyone likes to stare down our national abyss, I’ve picked out my twenty favorite moments–consciously avoiding some of the ones that have hit the news already to bring you some of the most deliciously depraved details–paired with Succession GIFs (of course):
1. An Apple A Day Keeps Lincoln’s Ghost Away
Too Much and Never Enough opens with a transcendently awkward dinner party at the White House in celebration of Maryanne and Elizabeth Trump’s birthdays. In fact, it’s so overwhelmingly hilarious that not only have I been unable to stop thinking about it since, but I’ve devoted a lot of space on this list to this scene. From Trump looming over Mary taking photos in the Oval Office to Mike Pence hovering “with a half-dead smile on his face, like the chaperone everyone wanted to avoid,” this dinner alone could be a one-act play, acting as a microcosm of the Trump family dynamics and how Trump turned the White House into a garbage-strewn shithole just like Trump Tower (Trust me–I went to Trump Tower last year and there were coffee-stained Starbucks cups, crumb-flecked paper bags, and discarded food EVERYWHERE). For example, the Lincoln Bedroom:
The White House historian joined us just outside the Oval Office, and we proceeded to the Executive Residence on the second floor for a tour to be followed by dinner. Once upstairs, we proceeded to the Lincoln Bedroom. I took a quick look inside and was surprised to see a half-eaten apple on the bedside table. As the historian told us stories about what had happened in the room through the years, Donald pointed vaguely once in a while and declared, “This place has never looked better since George Washington lived here.” The historian was too polite to point out that the house hadn’t been opened until after Washington had died.
Did George Washington leave apples around too? And who was the apple-munching culprit? We know it wasn’t Donald. Has he ever eaten an apple that wasn’t a part of a McDonald’s apple pie?
I’ll admit, this is such a minor detail yet it’s one that haunts me. Perhaps it’s my love of the juxtaposition between disgusting vintage foods and the attempted elegant yet gruesome pride with which mid-century cookbooks and magazines presented them. Or perhaps it’s because this is the perfect allegory for the Trump family: all flourish, no taste:
The first thing I noticed about the Executive Dining Room was its beauty: the dark wood polished to perfection, the exquisite place settings, and the hand-drawn calligraphy on the place cards and menus (iceberg lettuce salad, mashed potatoes—Trump family staples—and Wagyu beef filet).
I desperately need to get my hands on a looping, swirling calligraphied menu boasting an iceberg lettuce salad. If anyone knows someone who works at the White House, please steal one for me!
3. Mashed Potato Time!
It’s the latest! It’s the greatest! Mashed potatooooooooo!!!! Ahem…what? Oh yes, speaking of the Trumps’ World Famous mashed potatoes, well, the President seems to have harbored a decades-long grudge related to the side dish. And no, it’s not due to his resemblance to chunky white slop. The Mashed Potato Incident is mentioned several times in the book, always to Donald’s surly, cranky dismay. First, at the White House dinner during toasts:
When Maryanne’s turn came, she said, “I want to thank you for making the trip to celebrate our birthdays. We’ve come a long way since that night when Freddy dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on Donald’s head because he was being such a brat.” Everybody familiar with the legendary mashed potato story laughed—everyone except Donald, who listened with his arms tightly crossed and a scowl on his face, as he did whenever Maryanne mentioned it. It upset him, as if he were that seven-year-old boy. He clearly still felt the sting of that long-ago humiliation.
The incident wasn’t a big deal—or it shouldn’t have been. Donald had been tormenting Robert, again, and nobody could get him to stop. Even at seven, he felt no need to listen to his mother, who, having failed to heal the rift between them after her illness, he treated with contempt. Finally, Robert’s crying and Donald’s needling became too much, and in a moment of improvised expedience that would become family legend, Freddy picked up the first thing at hand that wouldn’t cause any real damage: the bowl of mashed potatoes. Everybody laughed, and they couldn’t stop laughing. And they were laughing at Donald. It was the first time Donald had been humiliated by someone he even then believed to be beneath him.
Has anyone tried dumping a bowl of mashed potatoes on his head NOW?
4. You’re My #1 Boy, Jr.
While giving toasts meant to honor the birthday girls, Donald Trump Jr., Daddy’s #1 Boy, rose to the occasion. No, not by giving a rousing speech about his Aunts, but by gushing about Poppa:
Unprompted, my cousin Donny, who’d returned from chasing down Jared, stood up to speak. Instead of toasting our aunts, he gave a sort of campaign speech. “Last November, the American people saw something special and voted for a president who they knew understood them. They saw what a great family this is, and they connected with our values.” I glanced at my brother and rolled my eyes.
I flagged down one of the waiters. “Can I have some more wine?” I asked. He returned quickly with two bottles and asked if I preferred red or white. “Yes, please,” I said.
Can you say daddy issues? When was he going to start in with his D to the ON rap?
5. Don’s Chompers
Some scenes that Mary recounts in the book are just so strange that it’s hard to find words to describe. This teeth-baring story is one of them:
I thought back to the last time the family had celebrated Father’s Day at Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn. Then, as now, Donald and Rob had been sitting next to each other with me directly across from them. Without any explanation, Donald had turned to Rob and said, “Look.” He’d bared his teeth and pointed at his mouth.
“What?” Rob had asked.
Donald had simply pulled his lips back farther and pointed more emphatically.
Rob had started to look nervous. I had no idea what was going on but watched with amusement while I sipped my Coke.
“Look!” Donald had said through his gritted teeth. “What do you think?”
“What do you mean?” Rob’s embarrassment was palpable. He had glanced around him to make sure nobody was looking at him and whispered, “Is there something in my teeth?” The bowls of creamed spinach scattered around the table rendered that a distinct possibility.
Donald had relaxed his mouth and stopped pointing. The contemptuous look on his face summed up the entire history of their relationship. “I got my teeth whitened. What do you think?” he had asked dryly.
Great table manners, Don.
6. Ticket To The Tropics
We all know that Donald Trump has been guilty of assholism for his entire life, but throughout the book, Fred Trump emerges as the dickbag blueprint from which Donald was constructed. In particular, Fred’s broke-down outer borough real estate blights are reminiscent of Trump’s own bed bug-infested hotels, including the leaking, drafty apartments in which Freddy Trump, his wife, and Mary and her brother lived. Whenever he would receive complaints about his shoddy shelters, do you think Fred Trump would immediately go into pro-tenant repair mode? Of course not!
When one tenant repeatedly called the office to report a lack of heat, Fred paid him a visit. After knocking on the door, he removed his suit jacket, something he usually did only right before getting into bed. Once inside the apartment, which was indeed cold, he rolled up his shirtsleeves (again, something he rarely did) and told his tenant that he didn’t know what they were complaining about. “It’s like the tropics in here,” he told them.
Someone get him a piña colada.
7. Flying Greyhounds
Freddy Trump emerges in the book as a tragic figure like the Trump family’s Kendall Roy–as flawed as the rest of the Drumpf demons, but more sympathetic in his struggles to define himself both within and without the family. During one of his more independent moments, Freddy becomes a pilot with TWA, which seems like it would be an accomplishment. Not in this family!
Freddy told them, with a note of disbelief in his voice, that the old man was embarrassed to have a “bus driver in the sky” for a son. It didn’t take much for his father to convince him that choosing to leave Trump Management meant choosing failure.
Fred wasn’t the only one to lob the odd and hilarious “bus driver in the sky” insult at Freddy. Donald had to, like a little deranged parrot, act as Big Daddy’s messenger:
Even before they sat down for dinner, Donald started in on his older brother. “You know, Dad’s really sick of you wasting your life,” he declared, as though he’d suddenly remembered why he was there.
“I don’t need you to tell me what Dad thinks,” said Freddy, who already knew his father’s opinions all too well.
“He says he’s embarrassed by you.”
“I don’t get why you care,” Freddy replied. “You want to work with Dad, go ahead. I’m not interested.”
“Freddy,” he said, “Dad’s right about you: you’re nothing but a glorified bus driver.” Donald may not have understood the origin of their father’s contempt for Freddy and his decision to become a professional pilot, but he had the bully’s unerring instinct for finding the most effective way to undermine an adversary.
8. The Art of the Flirt
Who says chivalry is dead? It’s a shame that of all the books Trump didn’t write and didn’t read that he managed to avoid publishing on his smooth pickup artistry. Beyond the pussy-grabbing and sudden smooching, Trump has quite a romantic way with words. No wonder he’s been so successful with the ladies!
Going from the regimented life at New York Military Academy to the relatively relaxed structure of college was a tough transition for Donald, who often found himself at loose ends and spent time strutting around the neighborhood looking for girls to flirt with. One afternoon he came across Annamaria, Billy Drake’s girlfriend, standing in the driveway watching her father wash the family car. Donald knew who she was, but they’d never spoken before. Annamaria knew all about Donald from Freddy. As the two of them were chatting, she mentioned that she had gone to a boarding school near New York Military Academy.
“Which one?” he asked.
When she told him, he looked at her for a second and then said, “I’m so disappointed that you went to that school.”
Annamaria, who was three years older than Donald, said, “Who are you to be disappointed in me?” That ended the conversation.
How could she resist?
If you wonder where Donald picked up his unique knack for (conservative) camp and huckster showmanship, look no further than Fred. When attempting to demolish Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park, sick of the pushback from locals, he, well, created a tacky spectacle worthy of the Trump name:
In a last-ditch effort to circumvent a push by local residents to have Steeplechase declared a landmark, which would have halted the development and scuttled his plans, Fred decided to host an event at the Pavilion of Fun, built in 1907. The purpose was to celebrate the park’s demolition—in other words, he would destroy what the community was trying to save before landmark status could be secured. He had my father give a press conference in order to announce the plan, making him the face of the controversy. The extravaganza featured models in bathing suits. Guests were invited to throw bricks (available for purchase) through the iconic window featuring an enormous image of the park’s mascot, Tilly, and his wide, toothy smile. In a photograph my grandfather holds a sledgehammer while grinning at a bikini-clad woman.
Nothing says fun like throwing a (purchased) brick through a hoped-to-be landmarked window!
10. “Work stuff”
I don’t know why this particular moment even made it into the book, but I’m so glad it did because its obtuse, vague, and curious exchange raises so many questions. Mainly, what the hell is going on here?
The evening didn’t go much better than Donald’s attempted flirtation in the driveway years earlier. Shortly after the brothers arrived, raised voices drew Annamaria from the kitchen, where she was preparing dinner. She found Donald standing inches away from his brother, flushed and pointing his finger in Freddy’s face. Donald looked as though he were about to hit Freddy, so Annamaria pushed herself between the two very tall men.
Freddy took a step back and said through clenched teeth, “Donald, get out of here.”
Donald seemed stunned, then stormed away, saying, “Fine! You eat the girl’s roast beef!” as he slammed the door on his way out.
“Idiot!” Annamaria called after him. She turned back to Freddy and asked, “What was that about?”
Shaken, Freddy simply said, “Work stuff.” And they left it at that.
11. The Trash Menagerie
Lest you forget that the Trumps are white trash at its most base (Money can’t buy you class, as they say!), witness Freddy’s swirling descent into alcoholism, featuring snakes, lizards, and ducks! It all started with just one snake, pre-divorce:
Things weren’t getting any better at the Highlander, either. Despite my mother’s fear of snakes, Dad brought home a ball python one day and put the tank into the den, forcing my mother to pass by it any time she needed to do laundry, go into my brother’s room, or leave the apartment.
Then, the reptile collection only grew after Freddy moved out into a sad basement apartment post-divorce:
Dad’s first apartment after he moved out of the Highlander was a studio in the basement of a brick row house on a quiet, shady street in Sunnyside, Queens. He was thirty-two years old and had never lived on his own. The first thing we saw when we walked through the door was a tank holding two garter snakes and a terrarium with a ball python. Another tank stocked with goldfish, and another with a few mice scrambling around in the straw, were set up on stands to the left of the snakes. I knew what the mice were for.
In addition to a fold-out couch, a small kitchen table with a couple of cheap chairs, and the TV, there were two more terrariums housing an iguana and a tortoise. We called them Tomato and Izzy.
Dad seemed proud of his new place, and he kept adding to the menagerie. On one visit, he took us down to the boiler room and led us to a cardboard box with six ducklings inside. The landlord had let him set up some heat lamps, creating a makeshift incubator. They were so tiny that we had to feed them with an eyedropper.
Way to go full-Florida, Freddy!
12. The Trump Eye For Decorating
Much of the action in the book centers around what the family calls “The House,” a cult-like nickname for Fred and Mary Trump’s abode. Basically any description of The House’s peculiar decorating style defies reason and seems like some nightmarish combination of The Royal Tenenbaums and The Shining. First, there’s the nearly bookless library, which could explain the President’s allergy to reading:
When the whole family was together, we spent most of our time in the library, a room without books until Donald’s ghostwritten The Art of the Deal was published in 1987. The bookshelves were used instead to display wedding photos and portraits. The wall across from the bay window overlooking the backyard was dominated by a studio portrait of the five siblings taken when they were adults that had replaced an earlier version of the five in similar poses taken when Freddy was fourteen.
Then, there’s the basement where the children would often play. And from the sound of it, it seems like a perfectly whimsical space for the little ones:
After that Fritz, David, and I usually ran to the basement—adults passed through only on their way to the laundry room or the garage, so we were free to be loud and to kick around the soccer ball or take turns riding up and down on (or fighting over) Gam’s electric stair lift. We spent most of our time in the open space at the far end with all the lights on. With the exception of my grandfather’s life-sized wooden Indian chief statues that were lined up against the far wall like sarcophagi, it was a pretty typical basement: drop ceiling with fluorescent lighting, white-and-black linoleum tile, and an old upright piano that stood largely ignored because it was so badly out of tune it wasn’t even worth playing.
And these aren’t the only Native American collectibles that Fred owned–he also had several busts of chiefs in full headdresses in his office. Uh, fucking yikes.
13. Just tossing the ole ball around with Don!
Even weirder than Donald’s younger brother Rob just straight eating a block of Philadelphia cream cheese as a snack, washed down with soda (of course), Mary’s account of tossing a ball around with Donald is unsettling at best as he wailed the ball at children as hard as he could:
When Donald was at the House, we mostly threw a baseball or football around. He had played baseball at New York Military Academy and was even less likely to pull his punches than Rob; he saw no reason to throw the ball any more gently just because his niece and nephews were six or nine or eleven. When I did manage to catch the ball he threw at me, the report of it against my leather glove reverberated off the brick retaining wall like a shot. Even with little kids, Donald had to be the winner.
14. Merry Christmas, Mary
Forget Santa! Fuck Mrs. Claus! Send those elves back to the frigid Arctic where they belong! Build a wall around North Pole! Because the only presents I want under my tree are the cheap re-gifts given by Ivana and Donald. Expired journals, opened gift baskets with caviar missing, a package of $12 undies, it’s impossible to choose a favorite present from the Trumps. But if I absolutely had to pick, I’d have to go with this strange monument to the trash aesthetic. I want a picture so I know how to properly covet this sweet blessed footwear!
I sat at the dining room table with the shoe in front of me, trying to figure out what the point of it was. I had looked through the remaining boxes under the tree, thinking that perhaps the shoe’s twin had been wrapped separately, but no, there was just the one—a gold lamé shoe with a four-inch heel filled with hard candy. Both the individual candies and the shoe itself were wrapped in cellophane. Where had this thing come from? I wondered. Had it been a door prize or a party favor from a luncheon? Donald came through the pantry from the kitchen. As he passed me, he asked, “What’s that?”
“It’s a present from you.”
“Really?” He looked at it for a second. “Ivana!” he shouted into the foyer.
She was standing on the other side of the Christmas tree near the living room.
“What is it, Donald?”
“This is great.” He pointed at the shoe, and she smiled. Maybe he thought it was real gold.
Mary wasn’t the only lucky one to receive such kindness from her relatives. Her mother was also provided some incredible items:
Worse, many of them had clearly been regifted. A handbag she got from Ivana one year bore a luxury brand but contained a used Kleenex.
This story was a slow burn in the litany of painful Trump family dinners with which I’ve been obsessed since finishing Too Much and Never Enough. Yet it’s a prime example of the entire family’s pathological lack of empathy, including Mama! As Mary Trump yacks on a piece of food, the entire family just sits there ignoring her distress, until the family drunk comes to the rescue to everyone’s…bored nonchalance.
That Thanksgiving, Dad joined us for the first time since he’d moved back to New York. He sat with me at Gam’s end of the table, pale and thin as a specter. Halfway through the meal, Gam started choking. “You okay, Mom?” Dad asked. Nobody else seemed to notice. As she continued to struggle, a couple of people at the other end of the table looked up to see what was going on but then looked down at their plates and continued eating.
“Come on,” Dad said as he put a hand under Gam’s elbow and gently helped her to her feet. He led her to the kitchen, where we heard some shuffling and the distressing sound of my grandmother’s grunts as Dad performed the Heimlich maneuver; he’d learned it when he had been a volunteer ambulance driver in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
When they returned, there was a desultory round of applause. “Good job, Freddy,” Rob said, as if my father had just killed a mosquito.
16. Sweet Sixteen And We Had Arrived
Hosting her Sweet Sixteen at Trump’s Grand Hyatt, Mary couldn’t avoid her creepy lurking Uncle Donald boasting about windows to her teenage friends:
Most of my guests had arrived and I was standing with a small group of friends when Donald made his entrance. He walked over to us, and instead of saying hello, he spread his arms and said, “Isn’t this great?” We all agreed that it was, indeed, great. I thanked him again for letting us use the hotel, then introduced him to everybody.
“So what’d you think of that lobby? Fantastic, right?”
“Fantastic,” I said. My friends nodded.
“Nobody else could have pulled this off. Just look at those windows.”
I worried that he might tell us how great the bathroom tiles were next, but he saw my grandparents, shook my hand, kissed me on the cheek, said, “Have fun, Honeybunch,” and walked over to them. My dad was sitting a couple of tables away from them, by himself.
When I turned back to my friends, they were staring at me. “What the hell was that?” one of them asked.
You know you’re a fucked-up weirdo if you caused a bunch of sixteen-year-olds to wonder, “What the hell was that?”
17. President Slob
A fairly devoted granddaughter despite it all, Mary visited her Grandma Mary Trump quite often, particularly after Gammaw was mugged. During these visits, Mary had a few heart to hearts with Gammaw, including about her (least) favorite son:
“Poor Donald,” Gam mocked. She seemed almost giddy, and I thought the hospital staff might need to cut back on her pain meds. “He was always like this. I shouldn’t say it, but when he went to the Military Academy, I was so relieved. He didn’t listen to anyone, especially me, and he tormented Robert. And, oh, Mary! He was such a slob. At school he got medals for neatness, then when he came home, he was still a slob!”
“What did you do?”
“What could I do? He never listened to me. And your grandfather didn’t care.” She shook her head. “Donald got away with murder.”
I guess he COULD shoot someone on 5th Avenue. Also Mama’s discussion of his sloppiness makes me think maybe that half-masticated apple WAS him in the Lincoln Bedroom. Tsk tsk!
18. The Art of the Ghostwriter
In addition to the introductory White House dinner, the other extended sequence in the book that is just transcendently funny is Mary’s short stint as the ghostwriter for Donald’s third book The Art of the Comeback. Hired based on nothing but a recommendation letter she penned for a professor up for tenure years earlier, Mary attempted over and over again (without payment, naturally) to meet with her Uncle in order to interview him about how he brought the company back from the brink after running it into the ground. Mostly, she sat through watching him make phone calls (“Whenever anything outrageously sycophantic, salacious, or stupid was said, Donald smirked and pointed to the speakerphone as if to say, ‘What an idiot.'”) and methodically reading clippings about himself, circling and scrawling comments in his trademark Sharpie only to psychotically send his revisions back to the author. Eventually, though, Trump writes some pages of his own, which he is quite proud of:
I took it to my desk and began to read. When I finished, I wasn’t sure what to think. It was clearly a transcript of a recording Donald had made, which explained its stream-of-consciousness quality. It was an aggrieved compendium of women he had expected to date but who, having refused him, were suddenly the worst, ugliest, and fattest slobs he’d ever met. The biggest takeaways were that Madonna chewed gum in a way Donald found unattractive and that Katarina Witt, a German Olympic figure skater who had won two gold medals and four world championships, had big calves.
Imagine what Trump’s presidential memoir will be like. Forget reading it; I’ll be your ghostwriter, Donny!
19. Manic Panic
As Fred Trump suffered more and more with dementia, he also found a new revolutionary style! Radical even! Just dash some Manic Panic on your stache, Fred, like a punk on St. Marks, and shock em all! Now, some will say that this isn’t funny, but the family’s humorlessly aghast reaction to the debut of Fred’s newfound technicolor facial hair is decidedly uproarious:
My grandfather had always been vain about his appearance and bemoaned his receding hairline. Now his full head of hair gave him a slightly shaggy appearance. Nobody said much about the wig, but the hair dye caused considerable consternation in the family, especially when we were going out in public. My grandfather often left the cheap drugstore dye on too long, turning his eyebrows and mustache a jarring shade of magenta. When he joined us in the library, obviously proud of what he’d done, Gam said, “Oh, for God’s sake, Fred.”
“Jesus Christ, Dad!” Donald yelled at him.
“For fuck’s sake,” Rob swore under his breath.
Maryanne, touching his arm, said, “Dad, you can’t do that again.”
I mean, who wouldn’t be proud?
20. Little Rocket Man
Mary decided to not bother to tell her family, gathered once Fred went in the hospital for the last time, that she was getting married. And for a good reason:
A couple of years earlier, Gam and I had been talking about Princess Diana’s funeral, and when she had said with some vehemence, “It’s a disgrace they’re letting that little faggot Elton John sing at the service,” I’d realized it was better that she didn’t know I was living with and engaged to a woman.
What is it with this family and their obsession with Elton John? Even that fixation is generational!