Trump: Surviving at the Top by Donald J Trump & Charles Leethsen - review by Miles Donald

Miles Donald

Not Very Nice

Trump: Surviving at the Top


Hutchinson 236pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

This stupid, vulgar, fatuous, conceited, half-baked and badly written book will give pleasure to the multitude of Trump haters.

Many of these coalesce around the Doonesbury cartoons written by Gary Trudeau, the world’s wittiest cartoonist. For those unaquainted with Trudeau’s stuff (and for them a rich pleasure lies ahead), it should be pointed out that Donald Trump, billionaire, is portrayed therein as an imbecile, egomaniacal vulgarian.

Second amongst the gleeful Trump haters are those who love the fact that the property developer, casino builder, champion of ‘the deal’ as an art form, is in a nasty financial and marital corner with his wife and his creditors who are apparently about to take him to the cleaners. It is of interest that Trump takes the relish of both groups so naively. Trudeau, like all great satiric observers, is concerned with human folly, delusion, pretension – whether it applies to down-and-outs in Central Park or the owners of the buildings in whose garbage they scavenge. Whatever Trudeau’s private views may be, his art is as apolitical as a cash register. Similarly Trump can’t grasp that if you brag about your success then when you slip, people like to see you fall.

At this point I declare an interest. I rather like Trump’s New York efforts. I always thought that one of the great things about New York City was that, barring the odd example like the Knickerbocker Club or the St Regis Hotel, its raison d’être was to be gloriously, excessively vulgar. Consequently I can’t see that Trump’s schlocking up the Plaza Hotel makes that much difference and I positively like the Trump Tower’s gallimaufry of pink marble and megafountain. The whole place is much more efficient and a sight more fun than anything that has been built in London since the war. If Trump is spitting on American ersatz gentility he’s got a good point.

But alas, his rhetoric is bananas. This book can only present him in the worst possible light. He just can’t be as coarse as it makes him seem. For one thing it is written in Bush-speak which is hard to get away with even if you’re President of the United States. Trump says that in business you can be too cocky but he hasn’t applied that principle to what happens between the covers of the book. Idiocy abounds:

‘Many people have called me greedy because of the way I amassed real estate, companies, helicopters, planes and yachts during the last several years. But what these critics don’t know is that the same assets that excite me in the chase often, once they are acquired, leave me bored … For me the important thing is the getting … not the having.’

Sounds like greed to me.

‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. He might have been wise rather than buying a 118 room house in Palm Beach which he visited no more than two dozen times, to telephone the Literary Review and receive assistance from its able staff in how to write a book.

He finds Brazil ‘a lovely if economically troubled country’ (that if – dontcha love it?) and he is surprised to find children running up to him with pencils and paper yelling ‘Mr Trump. Mr Trump’. Perhaps they expected him to write down a tip about the inflation rate. Alternatively they may have wished to commit some ingenious Brazilian atrocity with those pencils. Perhaps they merely wished to see if Trump could spell his name correctly.

On and on it goes. Handsome and hard working thirty-three year old executives possess an ‘uncanny’ understanding of Trump’s personal philosophy. He is served by happy well-adjusted men and heavy set homespun kind of guys. Yet nothing can completely protect him from life’s tragedies and the relentless passage of time, even if he is a very savvy guy.

Just occasionally, despite all the airbrushing, a hint of welcome brutality shows through. A prenuptial agreement is a modern necessity (heavens the passion!). His estranged wife Ivana ‘aspires to the aristocracy’ and keeps a ‘fancy leather bound book’ in which her guests sign their names – the calculating arriviste minx! Still Ivana is a ‘very special lady’. Well, for a cosmetically altered Czech Olympic veteran she looks stunning to me, but her real rarity must surely consist in her endurance of Trump’s conversation. The way Trump looks at it (I swear he actually says this), he has truth and beauty on his side and cannot consequently lose. When I got to this and heard a whooping tubercular ghostly laugh from the poet Keats, I thought back to Trump’s only witty phrase – the Lucky Sperm Club. This consists of those ‘phonies and unattractive people who have often done nothing smarter than inherit somebody else’s wealth.’

So the members of the Lucky Sperm Club need fear no application for membership from Donald Trump. Not that the Lucky Spermers need worry; the man who writes a book like this naturally blackballs himself.

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