Home > National Politics, Politics, United States > The Trump effect or What hath the orange one wrought?

The Trump effect or What hath the orange one wrought?

(or subtitle: Where is Mencken when we need him?)

Things have been steadily going from bad to worse since the November elections. The image that comes to mind is that of stones being lifted from the wet soil in ever larger numbers, allowing the ugly life forms underneath to wiggle out, rearing fat pink heads that should have remained hidden. Thus the frightening recent events in Charlottesville, thus people Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 16.13.38we didn’t know still existed becoming vocal with demands appalling in a nation that seemed geared toward more tolerance, less factions, less throwbacks to racist, bigoted times where cretins and downright monsters could thrive.

Change is everywhere. As an intro to how I’m about to illustrate the point, let me say that some years back, when I was doing a stint with an IT firm, my boss, noticing that writing was listed on my resume, pushed on me a couple of paperbacks with gaudy covers picturing full-breasted females and muscled men in various states of pre-sex extasy. The guy—Joe was his name–proudly revealed that these were written by his wife, a full-time and successful romance writer. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I thanked him and went home, the books burning a hole in my trunk where I had tossed them with a covert look around my parked car to make sure no one had seen me. There they remained, under a pile of clothes for Goodwill. After a respectable amount of time had lapsed–two or three days, I guess–I returned them, telling Joe how much I had enjoyed them. I still remember my one fear at the time, that I would  have an accident while the books were still in the trunk, and that once they were found in the mangled remains of the car, my reputation as a person of some intellectual gravitas would be forever marred and that would hurt even in death.

I don’t remember ever reading or even seeing any other romance novel, unless the Regency novels by Georgette Heyer that I devoured as a teenager and remember fondly count as such.

Much later, hearing of the lucrative market for romance writers, I once or  twice tried my hand at describing ripped bodices and blasting orgasms but gave up after a few paragraphs. Paraphrasing the late John Gardner, I knew then that “in order to write a junk book, you have to have a junk mind” and clearly I was not blessed with one.

Culture—not wealth, religion or a good heart, or, alas, Democrats—remains the last bastion against the barbarians invading our space and our minds. But according to Ron Charles, book editor of The Washington Post, whom I read and whose recommendations I occasionally follow as I do those of Michael Dirda, culture in today’s America is not only overrated but the sign of a pretentious, snobbish, elitist mind.  That, at any rate, is my take from his article (“Stop dissing romance novels already”) about attending a reading by romance writers at Politics and Prose, no less. So many brilliant authors, such an eager public, as eager as I would be at a reading by Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Kingsolver or Karl Ove Knausgaard.

If I follow Charles’s reasoning, denigrating the deplorables (including romance readers) who foisted upon us the present occupier of the White House is so yesterday! We have entered an era of perfect equality or rather leveling from the bottom. Painting on black velvet is on par with Titian. Psy (the immortal Korean musician who gave us “Gangnam Style”) is the equivalent of Mahler and KFC the most refined eatery available.

With his article, Charles establishes his feminist and populist creds.  “Are romance novels any more formulaic or unrealistic than the spy novels and thrillers that attract a male readership? Is there any reason — besides stale misogyny — to question the intelligence of romance authors and their fans?” he asks, and goes on to give us the cv of writers present that day, including “two lawyers and one who went to Harvard.” So? No one said they were idiots, just the opposite. They have found the right niche as do all those who use simple people to further their own fortunes—evangelicals, motivational speakers, carnival barkers et al. These authors are still romance writers (an “only” prefacing those words.) As for other genres he mentions, I would only remind him that John Le Carré writes spy novels and Scott Turow writes thrillers, to mention two superb writers out of hundreds of great ones.

I’m aware of the feathers I’m ruffling here and brace myself for some nasty comments but we are getting pulled lower every day and don’t necessarily enjoy the process, nor should we be made to feel bad because we don’t like it. Enough already, as Ron Charles aptly puts it. Again, the catastrophic results of the last presidential election have not achieved what it should have : bringing us to a deep realization of how flawed (and corrupt, given the insane amounts of money flowing in to elect unqualified idiots) the electoral  process is. It’s a shame that our only conscious reaction would be : hey, one mind is as good as the next, people are all equal as arbiters of taste; popular and even base culture is as legitimate as highbrow, who needs elevation ? Also adding a mea culpa about how we ignored the little people–half of America—and this should teach us to embrace them, including their romance writers, the only ones whom those who read do read.

Ron Charles and I are not on the same page. Not everything is good, not every book is a book and not every author an author.  Sure, every human being is as worthy of life and deserving as the next one but not necessarily a fit dinner companion or even book club member, or a person whose reading choices are as respectable as anyone else’s. (And even less an informed voter, as we now sadly know.)





  1. August 14, 2017 at 1:02 am

    Reblogged this on Dear Internet and commented:
    This needed to be said! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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