Even the Plots of Past Novels Change in the Disruptive Era of Trump

With President Trump and America’s far-right-Republican-controlled Congress changing everything for the worse (trying to yank away medical insurance, gut environmental regulations, lower taxes on the rich, etc.), it’s only a matter of time before the content of past novels changes to more accurately reflect what’s currently going on. Here’s what we might see:

— John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces becomes the story of today’s vile GOP politicians.

— Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls becomes the biography of House and Senate leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

— Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping becomes the saga of Republicans trying to retain control of the House via gerrymandering and suppression of Democratic votes.

— Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness becomes the story of Vice President Mike Pence.

— Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter becomes the tale of dad-enabler Ivanka Trump’s rise.

— Toni Morrison’s Beloved becomes about the admirable people who oppose Trump, Ryan, McConnell, and their GOP ilk.

— Henry James’ Washington Square becomes a confirmation that the far right now in DC is just plain un-hip.

— Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country becomes a description of the custom of many lower-income whites in rural areas (“the country”) to vote against their self-interest for the cater-to-the-rich Trump.

— George Orwell’s 1984 becomes about the IQ Trump thinks he has (but doesn’t).

— (Ms.) Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother becomes an Orwellian novel rather than a book about an obese sibling.

— Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses becomes Trump’s self-published book of bawdy limericks.

— Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood becomes a list of all the lies flowing out of Trump’s mouth in 2017. Annual sequels to follow.

— Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things becomes an anatomical look at Trump’s small fingers and his small…

— Willa Cather’s Shadows on the Rock becomes the story of how Trump and his expanding waistline loom over Melania’s huge wedding ring.

— Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 becomes about the first 22 law-abiding, hard-working undocumented immigrants the Trump administration cruelly nabs and deports.

— Colette’s The Shackle becomes the description of a prison device Trump wants to use on innocent Muslims.

— Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind becomes about climate change melting polar ice and causing various species to become extinct.

— Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano becomes about the coolest place to huddle after climate change worsens.

— Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire becomes the story of the all-white, cross-burning Ku Klux Klan that enthusiastically supports Trump and other GOP leaders.

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude becomes a treatise on the length and type of prison sentence deserved by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

— James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain becomes the story of Mount Rushmore’s four sculpted heads getting so disgusted with Trump that they actually speak.

— Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale becomes speculative fiction about anticipating the day Trump leaves or gets kicked out of the White House.

— Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy become the go-to collections of our physiological and verbal reactions to today’s far-right GOP rule.

Any novels with new meanings you’d like to add to my list? Would love to see them!

Here’s a review of, and a video interview about, my new literary-trivia book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I also write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column is here.

147 thoughts on “Even the Plots of Past Novels Change in the Disruptive Era of Trump

  1. Pingback: Book and movies re-imagined in the Trump era – Crazy-NOS

  2. Hey Dave, so many great comments here, I can’t even pick out my favorites! I must admit to being partial to Kira’s comment about the book “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” which I’ve read but it’s also a line from David Bowie’s song “Fashion” (We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town; Beep-beep, beep-beep). OK, so that song is going to be playing in my head all day! 🙂 As you know, my best friend was here for a few days — she’s a psychologist who treats veterans suffering from PTSD, so she was interesting to talk to about Trump. She diagnosed him as being an extreme narcissistic personality, though I think most of us would agree with that, as well as other things she said that I don’t quite remember, but there is something definitely wrong with him!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Kat Lib — MANY great comments, and Kira’s was among those gems. Thanks for the Bowie info — that’s one of his songs I’ve never listened to.

      Trump is definitely an extreme narcissist. A real nasty piece of work. Him, Paul Ryan, and others sadistically chuckling and celebrating a bill that would knock millions of people off medical insurance. Sick, sick, sick…


  3. Elephant Walk: the trail leads tramplingly over anybody in the way of making America great again and rippingly through the social safety net.

    The Overcoat: what is this cumbersome woolen garment to which the author refers? I have never seen one, since the Paris Accords were scrapped by DT.

    In A Lonely Place: Trump’s foreign policy. Who needs those picky allies when you’ve got all these shiny nukes?

    Raintree County: under the new Trump environmental policy, one can have either a tree, or rain, but not both, per county. Tough choice– there’s only one tree left, and it needs water. But the only rain available, thanks to global warming comes in deluge size only, so even if you chose to water your lonesome tree, it would be washed away by the deluge.

    From Here to Eternity: Trump’s term, given all the Armageddon coming, and its aftermath.

    The Road to Wellville: the one not taken by GOP Congress under Trump, though they named the other road Choice, after removing all signs of its old name: Expiring Pauper Place.

    As I Lay Dying: Trumpcare from a recipient’s perspective.

    Infinite Jest: the president, as topic for late night gag writers.

    American Psycho: too easy.


    Sometimes A Great Nation, The Gilded Rage, Huckleberry Fiend, For Whom the Bull Toils, Withering Hates, The Latest Tycon, The Dealslayer, Fifty Shades of Goy, or Bannon’s Rainbow, and Ivankahoe.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A barrage of brilliance! Thank you, jhNY!

      (Given Mark Twain’s hatred of all things Sir Walter Scott, I wonder what Mr. Clemens would have thought of “Ivankahoe”? 🙂 Meanwhile, if Roy is a low-income guy, Trump will rob Roy…)


          • We used to sometimes, when Mandy’s nerves were tricking up on her– she found their strange roast beef sandwiches strangely calming. Then after one particularly trying day, we went at her request to a RR, and lo, as we ate, her wallet was stolen right out of her purse, which she had thoughtlessly draped across her seatback– so far as we could tell, by a junior member of a charming blonde haired blue eyed family seated next to us. Cured us of hankering after anything on Roy’s menu altogether!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Sorry her wallet was stolen. That’s disheartening.

              While I’ve never been to a Roy Rogers, I’ve certainly been to plenty of fast-food restaurants — at highway rest stops, when my daughter drags me to one to get the “happy meal” kid toy and play in one of those indoor play areas, etc. Always interesting to try to eat vegetarian in those places..


              • Do fries go with that shake?

                Perhaps a quietly boiling fruit pie thingy for dessert?

                Not a fast food guy myself– one of the luxuries of living in NYC for certain.
                While trying to finish up a project at the end of a contract period, I was working 12 hour days and sometimes when I took a break, the only thing open on 11th Ave. was McDonald’s. Then it happened twice in two days, and I felt awful– don’t know that I could have eaten there a third time running unless starving for real. But there are people who eat in such spots daily– they must be made of stronger stuff than I.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Yes, fries. And perhaps a mediocre salad. Burger King does have a decent veggie burger. (Ha — “quietly boiling fruit pie thingy”!)

                  I agree — one never needs to have big-corporate-chain fast food in NYC. And that junk does do a number on one’s body — sometimes short term, always long term. 😦


              • I fear it just the beginning of a devastating political cycle marking the end of western democracy and individual liberty and justice. Get ready for the American societal model based on Putin and Russia, not on the U.S.Constitution and Bill of Rights.

                Liked by 1 person

                • There’s definitely a danger of that, Jack. 😦 Far-right Republicans are ruthless, and only care about the 1% that they’re part of and get donations from. So, true democracy is indeed not part of their equation. Heck, the first Trumpcare version had only 17% support in polls, and the second Trumpcare version is even worse. Yet it passed!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Modern Republican Party Motto: Money and Corporations First (because that’s where the money is) and to hell with democracy, law, or the will of the people. After all, a good dictator is far better for profit than any form of representative democracy. Just ask the colonial-ruling Monarch King George, and the greedy corporatism at the old British East India Trading Company.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Exactly, Jack! Eloquently put. And to think the U.S. started in rebellion against King George III — who’s like Bernie Sanders compared to some of today’s far-right Republicans.

                      Liked by 1 person

                • I feel we humans are fundamentally guilty of being magicians and audience at once– we develop systems like democracy and capitalism, and then blind ourselves to their origins so as to be able to believe they come from higher powers than ourselves, so that we might worship our creations, making sacrifices of ourselves on the altar of their specious perfection.

                  Wouldn’t be a bad thing just now, if to us, democracy was the more sacred of the two. But it isn’t. And the ascendant system must have blood to cover its collapse, which is inevitable, given its need to infinitely expand in a finite world. After which, we will only have ourselves to blame– well, some of us will, though that portion of us will find that another portion is guilty and must be punished.

                  End-stage capitalism, like politics, ain’t beanbag, to expand on Tip O’Neill’s old saying.

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. I write in today to make a comment on one of our more abiding interests: comic strips, in particular, Krazy Kat. There ‘s a new book out, “Krazy”, by Michael Tisserand on its creator, George Herriman, a Black man of light complexion known among his fellows in the newsroom as The Greek, so unknowing were they as to his actual background. A few weeks ago, I sent an attachment to a NYT review of the book, but today I will relate something which I read in the (London)Times Literary Supplement, namely a quote, which to me ranks as one of the most cogent, insightful and funny ever made on the topic, from PG Wodehouse concerning Krazy Kat:

    “In Krazy Kat, Mr. Herriman has got what Wagner was groping for in Parsifal.”
    That would be because of the recurrence in Krazy Kat, to quote Tisserand, of “themes of holy illusions and obsessive devotion.”

    Is the Grail the Brick Ideal?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Trump needs to be medicated, put in the Nervous Hospital and given a fake Twitter account which is attached to 20 monkeys, each having a keyboard. 😛

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Hysterical, Dave! Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”. We can go straight to central casting. Rumpy can play, as per the Monty Python clip, Violet your turning Violet Beauregard who turns into a purple blimp after chewing the gum, gluttony! Then she goes to the juicing room, never to be seen again. Or Rumpy can play Mike TV who turns into all the particulate matter into outer space as per my prior post. Its brilliant! I lost my appetite for lunch but all is ok! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Now this is what I call a hoot! Bravo Dave. I would worry that Trump, as any self-respecting fascist, would start burning books but since he only read the art of the deal, I think literature is Ok . . . for now.

    “ — Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls becomes the biography of House and Senate leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.” Pure gold!

    I think that the relationship between Trump and Putin is similar to Matt Ruff’s Fool on the Hill. Don’t cross the G-ds Dave! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much, Jack!

      That “Dead Souls” line was among my favorites. 🙂 But perhaps not totally accurate, because Ryan’s and McConnell’s souls are BEYOND dead.

      Yes, who knows what Trump will do with books? Maybe he’ll first burn what he knows most — TV sets, and the digital devices people use to slam Trump’s vile tweets. And when those burning electronic things send toxic fumes into the air, disgusting EPA head Scott Pruitt will be in ecstasy.

      Great comment!


  8. How about “Waiting to Explode” or “Waiting to Implode.” its a one chapter book , we know Rump does not have an attention span to read a novel. In the one and only chapter, Rump ends up, through spontaneous combustion, in a state of millions of millions of pieces of particulate matter of molecules. He explodes after all his hatred, negative vitriol, to much eating of KFC and other poor choices. The one chapter flyer is spoken in audio pseudo book by a Carl Sagan sound alike, We are finally free of Chumpy! Think Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory when one of the bad kids turns into particles, into the atmosphere, stratosphere and then..disappears. Sigh of RELIEF.:)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The Idiot: The biography of Donald Trump
    A Series of Unfotunate Events: The story of the 2016 election
    Much Ado about Nothing: The investigations in to Hillary’s alleged crimes
    The Importance of Being Earnest: The self help book Trump really needs to read.
    Breakfast at Tiffany’s : The story of Trump’s other daughter.
    Of Human Bondage: The story of what went on in those Russian hotel rooms.
    A Clockwork Orange: Trump’s guide to skin care
    We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: The Aftermath of the 2016 election.
    A Visit from the Goon Squad: Trump appoints his cabinet.
    Never Let Me Go: A plea to Obama.
    Hard Times: The state of the economy under Trump
    The Awakening: How Trump voters finally realized they’d made a horrible mistake.
    Atonement: Is it even possible for Donald Trump?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Absolutely love the Trump-ian descriptions of those titles, Kira! Brilliant! My slight favorite among the many favorites might be “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”

      Also, it’s fun to see a list with such great authors: Dostoyevsky, Wilde, Maugham, Burgess, Kate Chopin, etc. Thanks! And, no, I don’t see any atonement for Trump. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  10. The subtitle for the inevitable biography that will be written about him (after the nightmare is over, hopefully soon!) will be ‘The Sound and the Fury’. The title for that book has been supplied by DT himself: American Carnage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “American Carnage: The Sound and the Fury” — excellent, Brian! When it comes to Trump, it doesn’t get more accurate than that. Thanks!

      Another possible Faulkner-esque book about Trump: “Blight in August (and the Other Eleven Months, Too).”


  11. Here’s a glancing attempt at sticking to topic:

    A book of photographs taken from his best side (which is both sides) could employ this altered title: Profiles In Coverage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • VERY good, jhNY!

      Donald Trump and John F. Kennedy share something — having books ghostwritten for them (I’ve read that Theodore Sorensen mostly penned “Profiles in Courage”). Of course, the mixed-bag JFK had many more positive qualities than Trump, who has none.


  12. I have every intention of contributing more along the vein of the week’s blog, but :

    Our problem is simple. Stupid Crazy Guy In Charge. What will he do next? Something stupid and crazy.

    Don’t think that’s going to work out at all well for many of us, planet-wide, given what he’ll do next.

    Every day.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Here are some classics that could serve as great titles to books about the Trump era:

    “Bleak House” – the story of the Trump White House.
    “The Sound and the Fury” – this Faulkner title, taken from a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (“a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing”) about the rise of the influence alt-right talk radio.
    “Darkness at Noon” – the story of Inauguration Day.
    “The Haunting of Hill House” – the story of the Republican takeover of Capitol Hill.
    “Les Miserables” – the story of the majority of American citizens during these years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is a TERRIFIC list, drb! Not a weak one in the bunch. So hard to choose my favorite, but I guess I’d go with a first-place tie between “Darkness at Noon” and “The Haunting of Hill House.” Plus Trump likes Andrew Jackson more than Shirley Jackson. 🙂

      Thank you!


  14. Love the topic Dave, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
    Mockingbirds are mostly known to mimic the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians.

    Donald Trump speaks only one language ” English”, one of the most beautiful language of the World. But DT killed the language by butchering it with his slangs and verbiage. That is the reason he tweets with only a few letters.
    Bad , very very bad…

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Love it, Dave! Here are additional ones, some going back to your recent column on favorite book titles:

    Richard Farina’s “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me,” which is a reference to the political climate in the Trumpian universe where up is down and down is up (and who can tell the difference anyway!).

    Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” becomes the inability for Trump to pass even one bill into law, specifically Trumpcare (thank goodness!).

    Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” becomes the story of how Trump managed to get the nomination, let alone elected as POTUS (ugh!).

    Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” becomes the plot of how so many Americans lost leave of their senses and their sensitivity to vote for someone so unbelievably unqualified to become President and then continue to stick by him no matter what (double ugh!).

    John D. MacDonald’s “The Green Ripper,” becomes the story of how Steve Bannon came to have so much power in the Trump administration (thanks to Saturday Night Live for their skits that portray Bannon as The Grim Reaper!).

    Ian Fleming’s “From Russia With Love,” which chronicles the many motifs of how General Flynn and other Trump associates apparently colluded with Russia to get Trump elected and who knows what else (this is an ongoing story that should be told in serial mode — see The Rachel Maddow Show for updates!).

    I guess that will do it for now, Dave, but what a great column — the Trump administration is so easy to parody, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, but I’ve determined that the only way to get through this is to laugh whenever possible! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your examples are absolutely fantastic, Kat Lib!!! Thank you! Funny, and true. I can’t even pick a favorite. 🙂

      Also, your line about how many Americans decided “to vote for someone so unbelievably unqualified to become President and then continue to stick by him no matter what” — that’s one of the things that’s most depressing. It’s sickening that a large majority of lower-income whites still support Trump after most of his fake populist campaign promises turned out to be just that — fake — as he pushes for stuff that only benefits the ultra-wealthy.

      Yes, we can try to be humorous about this (and you succeeded!), but it’s not easy to laugh about this disaster.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Dave! I’ve got two pieces of personal news to pass on to you: (1) Ever since you contacted Word Press about commenting problems, I haven’t had any, which is of course the kiss of death, so to speak, but I hope this continues; and (2) most importantly, my best friend finally arrived yesterday from Durham, which is great. We sat out on my deck, drinking wine, and talking for hours. We became best friends in the first grade, we were each part of the other’s families, and have a bond that still exists even through there were years in the mid-’80s to just a few years ago when we’d lost touch, but it’s like that never happened.

        I think today we’re going to go to the Brandywine River Museum, which is currently having a “Homer to Hopper” exhibition. It’s funny, but when I first read about it, I was confused because I associate Homer with The Iliad and The Odyssey, until it finally dawned on me that it was Winslow Homer that they were talking about. 🙂 My sister was somewhat complaining about it, because there were actually very few paintings from either one; however, this is the place to go to see Wyeth paintings, as this is the area they lived in, so it won’t be a wasted trip no matter what.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Kat Lib! It does seem to happen sometimes — when one starts to address a problem, the problem goes away. 🙂 I hope, in this case, permanently rather than temporarily.

          Wonderful that your best friend has finally arrived, and that the visit is (not surprisingly) going so well! It’s true, with some friends, that there can be even years-long gaps in seeing each other yet things resume nicely as if only a few days had gone by.

          Hope you enjoy the museum today! I would also have first thought of the writer Homer than the artist Homer. And then there’s Homer Simpson…


          • Ha, Dave! When I was relating this story to my girlfriend before mentioning it to you, she also came up with the reference to Homer Simpson — great minds think alike as they say!

            On a more serious note, the other much more depressing thought that came into my brain was the song, “The End,” by The Doors; the extended version of it on YouTube because it’s been rattling around in my mind for days now. My girlfriend and I were talking about that we’ve got two very childish men who seem to enjoy saber-rattling for no reason, other than they can do it, and it has scared me no end. I may come across as paranoid, but I do worry about my critters and family more than anyone — but that fear is still there. And I do think about blowing through my entire 401K so I can enjoy my last days! OK, that was sort of a joke, I think???

            Liked by 2 people

            • Trump has the dough and we have the “d’oh”! 🙂

              Kat Lib, it IS legitimately scary what Trump and his crowd might deliberately or accidentally do to ruin the world. Somehow they and the rest of the far-right ultra-wealthy feel they’re immune from the consequences, but not really. Of course, the non-rich will suffer the most, as always.

              Ha — it can indeed be tempting to just live for today under that kind of threat.


  16. That was quite brilliant, Dave. The first thing that came to mind as I read the first paragraph was “Catch-22”, which you mentioned. There’s always a catch with this administration, isn’t there? So much intentional nonsense.

    … (and so many of us are, indeed, waiting to exhale).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wonderful! It absolutely AMAZES me: “Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country becomes a description of the custom of many lower-income whites in rural areas (“the country”) to vote against their self-interest for the cater-to-the-rich Trump.” And 97% of them STILL support him!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Mary! Glad you liked the post!

      Yes, it never stops being shocking how many lower-income whites continue to support Republicans who only care about the rich. I know there are various explanations (liberals supposedly looking down on these citizens, racism, the gun-rights question, and so on), but it still doesn’t totally compute.

      Liked by 1 person

        • That can’t be easy, Mary. And it takes a lot more courage being liberal where you are than where I am.

          I wonder, after Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress greatly worsen the lives of lower-income whites during the next 4-8 years, whether voting against one’s self-interest will change. Probably not; that didn’t change after Reagan and George W. Bush. (Of course, Trump is even worse than those two.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • “If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.” Lyndon Baines Johnson

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks, jhNY! One of the most insightful things LBJ ever said. Certainly goes a long way in explaining why so many lower-income whites support (against their own interests) the plutocrats rather than align themselves with fellow struggling people who happen to be of color.


  18. The scariest thought I have had this year:
    Maybe I should hide my books… It’s not that far fetched, with the Cambodian genocide of educated individuals echoing in my head… The thought is still there… Which books on my shelf will be targeted this year?
    Great post, like Squealer from Animal Farm, changing the meanings of words to serve your own purpose.
    So scary!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the kind words, daodeqi!

      With Trump and other far-right Republicans in power, almost nothing is far-fetched — including a “Fahrenheit 451” scenario. Heck, when one thinks about these GOP politicians being willing to yank medical insurance from millions (which would cause many deaths) in order to cut taxes for the already ultra-rich… 😦

      Liked by 3 people

    • The laziness of the snoopers is your ally. So long as you are even a bit active in the virtual world, that’s the only place they’ll look, as it doesn’t require them to leave the warmth of their cubicles.

      I’d be better off trying to hide behind my books than trying to hide them– too many by far, piled up all over.

      But seriously, just now in Turkey there are mysterious piles of books cropping up by stranger’s garbage cans after dark throughout the major cities– people are desperately trying to remove from their houses every single publication that might be construed by Erdogan’s thugs as Gulenesque.

      Liked by 2 people

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