“There is stupid being in every one. There is stupid being
in every one in their living. Stupid being in one is often
not stupid thinking or stupid acting. It very often is hard
to know it in knowing any one. Sometimes one has to know of
some one the whole history in them, the whole history of
their living to know the stupid being of them.”
Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (1906-08)
Leo Stein: “She's basically stupid and I'm basically intelligent.”
Dear Reader, by now you know that the Steiny Road Poet wants to talk about stupidity.
STUPID STUPOR STOPPED
Who is remembered for intellectual contribution—Gertrude Stein or her brother Leo? In the quote from Stein’s ground-breaking novel The Making of Americans, she allows that everyone is given some leeway relative to being labeled stupid. The question in our time is does that leeway apply to people like reality show personalities? OK, Steiny’s prejudice is showing (pun intended).
The root meaning of stupid goes to stupor—being stunned by surprise which is how Michael Wolff in his scathing new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House describes what happened when Trump won the 2016 American presidential race. The reality show celebrity who loves winning didn’t believe he would win. His wife Melania cried when she heard the news.
Fire and Fury reads like a book by Tom Wolfe, i.e., The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or The Bonfire of the Vanities. You as reader can expect to howl shamefully either with white-hot pain or side-splitting laughter.
Let’s pause here for a minute to understand that Michael Wolff spent months sitting on a couch inside the White House noting everything being said as well as interviewing everyone, including the Trumpster and his Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon. No matter how much 45 says he did NOT invite Wolff into his midst, Wolff was there and no rules were imposed on him by Trump, Bannon, or any other insider. What would you, Dear Reader, call this? Steiny would call this stupid—stunningly surprising that such a thing could have happened.
One of the catch phrases of Fire and Fury is what former press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly said, “You can’t make this shit up.” Did he mean you shouldn’t make this up when he was forced to back up the newly elected president who insisted that his inaugural audience was the largest inaugural crowd ever?
Perhaps what Spicer said is the show stopper that means no one could possibly make up what was coming from the Trump White house, especially given that every day (and now Steiny is talking real time and not the 200 days reported on by Wolff) something is broadcast that has come from POTUS directly via twitter that makes for head-slapping disbelief. And while we, Dear Reader, are on that subject of head slapping, Wolff reported early in the book that the late and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (this is the man who claimed he helped create Trump) said Trump could be hit on the side of the head and not notice. “He just keeps going.” The word that comes to mind is dummkopf (dumb head). Steiny notes that Wolff doesn’t call Trump stupid. He doesn’t have to; plenty of people in Trump’s inner circle have in a variety of ways.
TRUTH OVER FACTS
Let’s start over again. Is Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House New Journalism, with Michael Wolff writing as if he were a fly on the wall, a phrase Wolff uses lavishly in his book? New Journalism features truth over facts. Let’s not confuse this with truth versus alternate facts like those defensive remarks made by Sean Spicer on the size of the inauguration crowd. Presented as if it were a firsthand account, New Journalism, a term that Tom Wolfe disliked and said he did not coin, is how The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a nonfiction book published in 1968, presented the story of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. So, what Steiny is asking is: did Michael Wolff, interpreting Trump’s rise to the presidency, emphasize the bigger truth versus the actual facts?
Actually, Steiny doesn’t care because like Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism and fiction (The Bonfire of the Vanities), Fire and Fury with its pleasing tapestry of pop culture diction, wonk slang, government speak, and even Trump-ese is deeply entertaining…as long as you, Dear Reader, can detach like a Zen master from the offending real world and be in the present moment, which is over-the-top hilarious. Michael Wolff proves himself to be a good writer.
Steiny has been listening to the eleven hours of Fire and Fury. She downloaded the book without cost through Audible.com. The author’s note was read aloud by Michel Wolff himself. The rest of the book is spoken—no, acted enthusiastically—by the Baltimorean actor Holter Graham. While Steiny has noted a wee stumble over an unfamiliar word on occasion, she loves the way Graham pronounces Wolff’s melodious sentences. She loves the way crazy anecdotes are delivered wryly. For example, why The Donald eats McDonalds regularly—this is not a spoiler—is because our 45th president fears being poisoned and figures no one knows he would be buying his dinner at a fast-food joint. What makes this anecdote more gross is that he takes his burger and fries to bed at 6:30 p.m. where he sits watching three screens of t.v.
So while Trump and the people around him were stupid enough to give Michael Wolff access to the inside goings-on, what Wolff has produced is smart as in showing a quick-witted intelligence, as in smarting—causing a sharp pain.