Reviewed by Ian Lipke
The television viewing public has seen so much of the US President who held office from 2016 – 2020 that the thought of a book on Donald Trump fills potential readers with dismay. I would have thought of him as ‘forget-worthy’ once he had moved into his apartment in Florida. Yet I cannot lay too much blame on the authors’ choice of subject matter. I don’t remember Roscoe Whalan but Zoe Daniel lived the final months of Trump’s presidency with a camera and a team nearby. Each night, we listened to her well-balanced and informative television reports. She was our eyes on America.
To publish a book on ex-President Trump now makes economic sense. Some readers will be looking for an analysis of policies, others will seek understanding and a release from their bafflement, still others (about 74 million of them) will buy the book to learn how their idol was swindled out of victory at the polls. Others will want to re-live such a famous, but utterly worthless, face to face confrontation between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Greetings from Trumpland has the popular market in its sights. If the authors ever entertained the belief that they were writing a considered treatise on the Trump years, they must have soon realised that such a book was not about to happen. Daniel is too astute to believe that for a moment. I suspect the intention was always to capitalise on the public interest in Trump, to squeeze as much money out of sales before Trump is forgotten. After all, a mine of material, most of it provocative, exists to satisfy the reader who likes a little controversy with the midday lunch.
Upon examining the text, the speculations raised so far move on the spectrum towards fact. “The Clinton campaign painted Donald Trump as an existential threat – a monster who would bring about the end of American values as they knew them” (28). This is reportage, not analysis. There is no attempt at clarifying what American values in 2016 were. But this was also acceptable prose in the context of the book – a popular piece gathered to feed the voracious appetite of a confused population. There is much more of this to come.
In Chapter Three, Daniel shows her readers the high level of writing skill that characterises much of her serious writing. She describes her arrival in Washington DC in late 2015.
The autumn leaves are still on the ground, but the trees are stark and skeletal against grey skies. The city will soon be monochrome, devoid of green, almost like a bushfire has passed through (30).
So it’s not Graham Greene, but it is a welcome change from the day-to-day absurdities of Donald Trump. Besides, this sort of writing by Zoe Daniel worms its way into the favoured side of my hearing.
As I work my way through the chapters, it becomes clear that the book has been written strictly to entertain the masses. How else to understand the chapter called ‘Nasty Women’. I’ve read many books designed to hurt or spread vulgarities, but I stopped reading at Trump’s remark about Megyn Kelly;
You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes…Blood coming out of her wherever (97).
This sort of crass appeal was not for me and I read no further. I don’t think I missed much. No doubt the book will sell to make the publisher a nice tidy profit.
Only for audiences with particular tastes. Decide for yourself.
By Zoe Daniel and Roscoe Whalan
$34.99; 384 pp