Writers Who’ve Rightly Criticized the Far-Right Trump

Some authors make political points in their novels, but an increasing number are also doing so on social media, in interviews, and in other public forums since Donald Trump was “elected” president in 2016. Hard not to given the never-ending cruelty, racism, misogyny, authoritarianism, and anti-intellectualism of Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and most other prominent Republicans. They’ve become existential threats to decency and democracy.

I thought about this after seeing a video on Facebook this week in which Maine-based author Stephen King (above) supports U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon in her effort to unseat Susan Collins in Maine. The renowned King says in the campaign ad that Collins is notorious for posturing as a bipartisan “moderate” while almost always backing what the far-right Trump and McConnell want. When Collins does say no, it’s only when it’s safe to do so — as with her being one of two Republican senators to say she’s against McConnell’s ultra-hypocritical push to replace late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during an election year after the monstrous Mitch refused a 2016 court confirmation vote during Democrat Barack Obama’s last full presidential year. Undoubtedly, McConnell gave Collins permission to take her allegedly brave stand because four Republican votes are needed to block a court vote.

Other authors who’ve made their political feelings known, specifically about Trump?

In 2019, Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits, etc.) labeled Trump “a fool” for denying climate change.

Also that year, Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things, etc.) called Trump “out of control.”

John Grisham (The Firm, etc.) said of Trump in 2018: “Around our house, my wife and I, we try not to say his name. He knows nothing, he reads nothing, he listens to no one. Nothing he says is clever or smart. Him, the people around him, his crooked friends: each day brings a new embarrassment… I wake up every morning embarrassed to be an American.”

Also in 2018, Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible, etc.) noted with disgust that Trump “is an avowed perpetrator of sexual assault.”

In 2018, too, Alice Walker (The Color Purple, etc.) said Trump “has an inferiority complex” that drives much of his repugnant bluster and boasting.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah, etc.) stated in 2018 that Trump’s election was like “giving a toddler the keys to a very expensive and complicated car.”

Zadie Smith (White Teeth, etc.) had a similar take in 2016 — calling Trump “reminiscent of a six-year-old child” as well as “fact-free.” Then, this year, Zadie’s actor brother Ben said Smith left the U.S. to return to London at least partly because of “racist idiot” Trump.

Also using the “i” word, in 2017, was Neil Gaiman (American Gods, etc.) when he called Trump “an out-of-his-depth idiot.”

Back again to 2016, Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress, etc.) labeled Trump “a lazy, spoilt guy.”

And Philip Roth, speaking in a New York Times interview five months before his 2018 death, called Trump “a massive fraud” who is “the evil sum of his deficiencies.”

Any other examples you’d like to mention of authors speaking about Trump and other political matters outside their novels since 2016? Is it okay for authors to discuss politics outside their novels? Is it okay for authors to write about politics in their novels?

I’ll be posting my next book piece next Monday (October 5) rather than the usual Sunday (October 4).

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started, award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest piece — about another too-big building approved by my town’s spineless Planning Board — is here.

Serious 2020 News About Several Fiction Series

For fiction readers who are into popular series, this has been an interesting year.

One major development was Lee Child announcing that he would gradually step away from writing his mega-selling Jack Reacher thrillers because of his age (a not-that-old 65). Child and his younger brother Andrew are co-authoring a few more Reacher books — including next month’s The Sentinel — before Andrew takes over completely. That’s the plan after Child, starting with 1997’s Killing Floor, churned out roughly one novel per year starring the wandering/charismatic/justice-seeking loner Jack.

I’ve read most of the Reacher books, and found them riveting. But will I continue to read them after Lee Child bows out? Unsure. I’m not a big fan of a series being passed on to a different author. Heck, I loved Stieg Larsson’s page-turning Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) but decided not to read the new installments by David Lagercrantz. The late Stieg certainly had no say in picking that successor.

Then we have J.K. Rowling. Once absolutely beloved as the author of the stellar Harry Potter series, Rowling has recently gotten into hot water with intolerant views about transgender people. Which brings us to her newer series — written under the Robert Galbraith pen name — starring the fascinating private investigators Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. I was a huge fan of the first four books, released between 2013 and 2018, and the fifth one came out this month. But Troubled Blood includes the character of a male serial killer who dresses in women’s clothing — making it almost seem like Rowling is rubbing her transphobia in readers’ faces. So I might not read the new book, even as I contemplate the irony of Rowling writing her crime series under a man’s name…

During the first part of the pandemic this year, I continued Diana Gabaldon’s mesmerizing Outlander series by reading the second-through-eighth books, which average 1,000-plus pages apiece. The eighth novel (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) came out in 2014, and the eagerly awaited ninth one (Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone) is expected late this December. As the time-travel-laced story continues, I can’t wait to see what happens with 20th-century doctor Claire, her 18th-century Scottish warrior husband Jamie, their daughter Brianna, their son-in-law Roger, and other memorable characters in a series that began in 1991.

Back in May, a prequel to Suzanne Collins’ massively popular The Hunger Games trilogy was released. While I haven’t yet read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (dystopian fiction is not at the top of my list during this dystopian year), I did feel the 2008-10 trilogy was depressingly terrific.

Coming in November is Fortune and Glory, Janet Evanovich’s 27th novel starring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

In early February 2021, we’ll see Walter Mosley’s Blood Grove, the 15th book starring private investigator Easy Rawlins. (If 2020 had 14 months — it does seem like a lonngg year — Blood Grove would be out in time to be a legitimate part of this post. 🙂 )

Any thoughts on fiction series and their 2020 aspects?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started, award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest piece — about a wretched election ruling — is here.

The ’60s Live On. The 1860s, That Is

Tolstoy and Dost

As Trump attempts to stir up a civil war in the U.S. to try to get reelected, thoughts turn to…the 1860s. But unlike America’s ghastly president, I’m going to keep things positive by mentioning novels I admire from that long-ago decade.

This theme occurred to me as I continue to read Wilkie Collins’ No Name, published in 1862. It’s a tribute to Collins’ writing ability that one of his lesser-known novels — about two daughters disinherited by law after it’s discovered that their wealthy late parents weren’t married at the time of those sisters’ births — is so good. The author is of course most famous for the scintillating mystery The Woman in White (1860) and the early detective classic The Moonstone (1868) — plus he also penned Armadale (1866), which features one of 19th-century literature’s most intriguing female villains. Quite a decade for Collins.

Collins’ friend Charles Dickens saw one of his most memorable novels — Great Expectations — published in 1861.

Another iconic English writer, George Eliot, started the decade with two of her four best books: The Mill on the Floss (1860), about the complex relationship between a sister and brother; and Silas Marner (1861), about an embittered miser who turns his life around after becoming a surprise parent.

Two masterpieces of 1860s literature, and of literature from any time, came out of Russia: Crime and Punishment (1866) and War and Peace (1869). Written, of course, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy (pictured right and left above). You may have heard of them. 🙂

Another excellent Russian novel from that time period was Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1862), which will fill your quota of nihilism.

Also published in 1862 was Les Miserables, the widely popular classic by French author Victor Hugo.

His countryman Emile Zola came out with the early-career potboiler Therese Raquin in 1868. Not one of Zola’s best novels, but his first good one and his first to attract a lot of interest.

In the science-fiction realm, French novelist Jules Verne wrote Journey to the Center of the Earth (without a GPS) for an 1864 release.

American author Nathaniel Hawthorne penned his last completed novel in Europe — the Italy-set The Marble Faun (1860). Unusual considering that so much of his previous work featured a New England milieu, but Hawthorne had remained in Europe for several more years after serving as U.S. consul in Liverpool during the 1853-1857 presidential term of his college friend Franklin Pierce.

Another American author, Louisa May Alcott, saw her beloved novel Little Women released in 1868.

Oh, and back in England, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland stepped through the looking-glass in 1865.

Your favorite 1860s novels?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started, award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest piece — about a greedy bunch of property owners (including at one least one mega-millionaire) trying to kill rent control in my town — is here.

The Times of Their Lifetimes Were Similar

HeidiMany well-known authors were almost exact contemporaries of other well-known authors. In some cases, that was just a meaningless coincidence. In other cases, they had some things in common.

I thought about this yesterday after FINALLY reading Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, which I greatly enjoyed. Then I tried to think of a blog topic that beloved 1881 book evoked, but I had seemingly written them all before. Novels starring children — check. Orphans in literature — check. (Mostly) upbeat fiction — check. Etc. So, out of desperation, I eventually came up with the similar-time-alive thing.

Spyri lived from 1827 to 1901, making her a somewhat-older contemporary of Mark Twain (1835-1910). Not much in common between a sort-of-famous writer (Spyri) and a VERY famous writer (the brilliant Twain). Heck, Heidi is a heartwarming novel — complete with its plucky protagonist and friendly goats (see above image) — while the often-funny/often-scathing Twain didn’t really “do” heartwarming. 🙂 But both authors created memorable young characters (of course Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in Twain’s case), and Spyri’s home country of Switzerland was among the many places the U.S.-based Twain visited.

Having almost the same 19th-century birth and death years were George Eliot (1819-1880) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). Both are among the very greatest novelists of all time, with their books’ many attributes including immense psychological insight. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Eliot’s Daniel Deronda are among my five favorite novels.

Mary Shelley (1797-1851) and Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) were near-contemporaries, too, but they didn’t have much in common I can think of other than both being extraordinary writers. One English, one French; one best-known for speculative fiction, the other best-known for naturalist fiction…

Also few similarities between French author Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) and American author Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). The former is best known for his rousing adventure novels (that were also literary in their way), while the latter often focused on moral issues and the like in a more subtle fashion. (If they had somehow collaborated, I suppose “The House of the Seven Musketeers” might have resulted. 🙂 )

On the other hand, there were these exact contemporaries with a lot in common in their writing: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) and James Joyce (also 1882-1941). Both are known for their modernist, nonlinear fiction — and they undoubtedly had some influence on each other’s work.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) died within days of each other, but Cervantes was obviously quite a bit older. Both are among literature’s most-iconic writers in different genres.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) and Toni Morrison (1931-2019) both wrote multi-layered novels featuring memorable relationships and strong social-justice elements — relating to race, ethnicity, gender, class, etc. Also, both didn’t see their first novels published until they were around 40, with Marquez working as a journalist and Morrison as a book editor before that.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and John Steinbeck (1902-1968) were both 27 when their first novels appeared, and each mostly spotlighted male characters in their fiction — though Hemingway had a more macho/misogynist attitude. Together, they were married seven times (Hemingway four, Steinbeck three). Also, both did war reporting during their lives.

Science-fiction connections? Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) and Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) were approximate contemporaries. Frank Herbert (Dune) and Isaac Asimov were also born in 1920, but didn’t live nearly as long as Bradbury — Herbert until 1985 and Asimov until 1992.

Then there’s this trio born within a year of each other: Colette (1873-1954), Willa Cather (1873-1947), and L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942). The first two are known for adult fiction, the third mostly for young-adult fiction — though Montgomery also wrote excellent “grown-up” novels such as The Blue Castle. Montgomery and Colette could be very funny in their books; Cather much less so. Cather and Montgomery both wrote powerful World War I novels (One of Ours and Rilla of Ingleside) — illustrating that the time period when authors are alive can lead to similarly themed content. Cather was gay (something only obliquely referenced in her fiction) while Colette was bisexual (more directly referenced in some of her novels).

Any other authors you’d like to mention who were roughly contemporaries?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started, award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest piece — about a controversial school principal incident and a supermarket that may or may not come to town — is here.