The Eternal Struggle

March 19, 2017 | 20

“I bet you can relate. Always another crisis, always more costs to keep down. It’s hard to find time for yourself, you know? But the president of the United States should be able to read a book when he wants to. Or at least look at one. Maybe I could just look at this book for a while.”

is a staff writer for The Millions. He lives in New York.


  1. If anyone out there is still credulous enough to believe that any post-WWll American President read a single real book, from cover to cover, while in office… perhaps I can interest you in some of the world’s least plausible creation myths? Those “Presidential Reading Lists” are a public relations function just as any Aw-Shucks photo opp is (ie, these millionaires in the Oval Office don’t, as a rule, guzzle hot dogs, though they are often photographed eating them at sundry events to invoke the “common touch”)… do you really think the guy who signed off on weekly Kill Lists, during the previous two terms, was reading Netherland or Lush Life to unwind?

    I think Trump is just about as stupid a plutocratic vulgarian as you can find but hammering him for being no dumber, in Reality, than Dubya (who suddenly gets all kinds of revisionist free passes), nor any more corrupt than The Clintons or Jekyll/Hyde-ish than BHO… it says more about the self-serving delusions of Coke vs Pepsi Democracy than any particular Dolt/ Psychopath/ Con(wo)man in the Oval Office.

    Why not stop shooting the Trump fish in the barrel and start critiquing, in a serious way, the Country that produced him… and all the other dysfunctional Figureheads?

  2. Hola Steve! Just checking in with you on your post-election hot take that Trump was preferable to HRC because she was a War Criminal and he was merely a buffoon. Now that Trump has escalated Obama’s ME bombing/droning misery, I see you are moving on to “Well yeah but other presidents were bad too.” Somehow I doubt you would have called for a cease fire on Clinton fish-shooting had she won, lol…Before we get to anything so grandly vague as “critiquing the country that produced him” (which, I mean, critiques are out there in spades…I’d suggest we at some point actually do something about it) perhaps we should start with intellectual honesty and a renewed interest in and respect for facts?

  3. Toad:

    If you actually read my post (really read it, I mean) and respond to what I wrote (as in address the actual point I made), I’ll probably respond! And in a rational and friendly fashion, too. Also: if you weren’t the one who posted the link I’m addressing, or the original content it points to, why take my comment so personally? I know this is the Age of Sensitive Triggers and Exaggerated Offense, but… why?

  4. Lol, thanks for the courtesy of not calling me a Snowflake at least! I don’t know why you think I took your comment “personally,” I just find it amusing to read your backpedaling re: Trump without any sort of acknowledgment of how badly you misread him. I can sense the sheepishness in your posts, which are so much less ranty these days…like you are wistful for the days when your Clinton hatred wasn’t contaminated by the bumbling reality of War Criminal Trump…

    So, this is your point, correct?

    “Why not stop shooting the Trump fish in the barrel and start critiquing, in a serious way, the Country that produced him… and all the other dysfunctional Figureheads?”

    And if you read my post, (really read it, I mean) you’ll see that my response to your point is 1) you are being incredibly disingenuous, because you would not be making such a point under a Clinton presidency and would in fact be firing goddamn missiles into the Hillary barrel; 2) serious reckoning is impossible in this country when one side believes the Clintons molest children in the back of a pizza parlor and the other believes every thunderstorm is a Russian conspiracy; 3) critiques are good and fine but what America needs now are politicians who will actually do something to stop this country’s transformation into a militant plutocracy.

  5. “… what America needs now are politicians who will actually do something to stop this country’s transformation into a militant plutocracy.”

    When was the USA not a miltant plutocracy? Try William Blum’s KILLING HOPE site and Anti-Empire report for the stats on this, should you desire some hard facts.

    I think wishing for “politicians” who should “do something” is just another form of sticking your head in the sand. The first step in curing the disease is…

  6. Toad!

    ” I can sense the sheepishness in your posts, which are so much less ranty these days”

    Har! Um: no. Valiant, good-faith attempt at mind-reading via screen, Toad, but it’s more that I’m tired of going around and around on all this and, yeah… I don’t want to trigger a flamewar that will only be mod-deleted in the end, making the time invested even more of a waste. I was exercising my right to comment on a post… not strapping on the old armor to play another few rounds of paintball with you and the crew…

    Plus, and weirdly, I generally enjoy commenting on Lit around here. You probably don’t notice those comments. I left a scholarly (supported by textual sources) bit about Nabokov’s Lolita a while back, but since very few people have read that book with any depth: crickets. Comment on a Trump post, though, and: Boom.


    If we stick to what I actually wrote, in my initial comment, we discover that my point is: why are we treating all of these bad things as though they started with, or are peculiar to, or are even worse with, Trump? Well, I know why: it feels better than facing the fact that Trump’s sins are neither new nor greater in magnitude than the sins of the Figureheads who preceded him.

    I never expected a single good thing to come out of a Trump Presidency; I just couldn’t get why anyone expected a single good thing to come out of an HRC presidency (or thought anything good came out of the BHO presidency). How could you EVER think I was a Trump supporter? I said he was a “buffoon running against a War Criminal”… I stand by that assessment.

    Will Trump eventually catch up to BHO and/or The Clintons on the level of insider-style-political corruption and War Crimes? Very possibly! It’s a learning curve, no? (But at least you’re finally talking about the jaw-droppingly illegal Drone-Kills program: progress! The fact that you can talk about it now that Trump has taken the reins sort of proves my point…).

    Why can’t we all do away with the Partisan Propaganda and speak frankly?

    My point was never, as you’ve innocently misread, time and again, “Well, Trump’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done before so why is is he so bad, in your eyes?” My Point was always: “They’re All Corrupt; They’re All, even, if you will, Evil.” Trump is/was Noob Evil. He’s still a joke and a horror and I never wrote otherwise because I haven’t bought the False Dichotomy since shortly after ’92.

    Isn’t the first step in “doing something” about it all admitting the fact that The System, at the level we’re discussing, produces Monsters and Monstrous Effects on every side of the phony divide and, worse: the Monsters are the main product?

    Let’s break out of that Propagandistic Bubble and start jeering Trump, BHO, HRC, Bushes, McCain, et al, with equal contempt. Because shouldn’t it be some sort of wake up call when they start rehabilitating Dubya’s bon mots as a stick to beat Trump with…?

  7. @Scott Fox

    William Blum is always great; Dr. Michael Parenti, as well! Pilger, of course. I also find Daniel Brandt an interesting (if spooky) source of Info…

  8. PS

    “you would not be making such a point under a Clinton presidency”

    Anyone attempting to beatify BHO after HRC-hypothetical took office would have been reminded, by ranty me, that BHO was every bit as Evil. Which would not, in either case, be a case of me “shooting fish in a barrel” because the Media would generally be against, rather than in lockstep favor of, my position. You see: I can “attack” BHO without supporting HRC (or DT)… because I’m not locked in the ideological Pepsi vs Coke trick. Which, surely… considering my commenting history… should be obvious, with just a little extra thought, to you.

  9. Scott, ha, yes let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya and solve problems through talking. That spirit of bipartisan talking helped us solve health care, save the institution of the Senate….no, unfortunately the only thing that will change is if our politicians stop giving a fuck about politics and party and start doing the right thing.

    Steve, frankly I’m exhausted too. I suggest a pact: no more political posts. I’m game if you are.

  10. Toad:

    “Steve, frankly I’m exhausted too. I suggest a pact: no more political posts. I’m game if you are.”

    I’m in. Now if only that would stop… the… political posts…! laugh

    Now, about Nabokov…

  11. Yes, re: Vlad. I tend to believe that if you have to ask a question in the title of your essay the answer is always no…In my mind I have always conflated Pnin with Monsieur Hulot from the Tati movies, and as a result that book has never had the impact of Lolita or Pale Fire…but second-tier Vlad is still world-class. It’s been a few years since I read him, though – perhaps this is an excuse to finally tackle Ada…

  12. T!

    I was referring to another post on VN (now buried by the sands of Internet Time); a post about Lolita.

    Re: Ada: a tough slog and more perverse, in bits, than Lolita, by a factor of ten. Morris Dicksten wrote, “Nabokov often denounced social and psychological realism and booby-trapped his books with alienation effects and distancing devices, yet his own best work, such as Lolita and Pnin, was done when he struck a truce with realism rather than abjuring it completely as he does in Ada,” and I agree with him, largely (and not only regarding VN’s work). VN’s pathological powers of description worked best when anchored and balanced by targeted objects outside the maniacally self-describing Kingdom of his head.

    But if you’re going to tackle Ada, this is an interesting pre-read:

  13. I thought you were referring to the “Did Vlad Write the Great Refugee Novel?” from a few days ago…whether you intended to or not I think you’ve convinced me to give Ada a go…

  14. (Well, as long as we’ve all jumped in our Monkeys-esque dune buggies and are doing doughnuts off piste…)

    I’ll take this opportunity to re-post the other Nabokov-related thing I was talking about. I’ve been mentioning this on Lit sites for over 15 years now and nobody has ever responded, but I have a goodly chunk of textual evidence to back it up and (at least, as of 15 years ago) haven’t seen anyone (not even Brian Boyd) claim it:

    “… the glaringly obvious, yet rarely (if ever?) remarked upon clues, in the book’s text, that Quilty is Lo’s biological father…”

    If you’re a “fan” of Lolita, that’s fairly big pants. Maybe someone else has finally discovered it since I first started posting the evidence…?

  15. Thanks Lydia!

    And Steve, GR is – well – all I can say in a silly comment section is that no book means more to me that that one, for several reasons….I might prefer V as a coherent reading experience, but I’ll put GR’s Evensong and Franz Pokler episodes up there against anything else I’ve ever read…

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