Cheap shots: Trump as a comic book hero; defending Florida’s honor.
Today I must chide the usually reliable Carolyn Kellogg for taking a swipe at my state in an otherwise excellent piece about visiting the Jack Kerouac house in Orlando. Plus: Won’t a Trump comic book look crowded, with all those empty thought balloons?
This may come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog, but I don’t care for cheap shots. Let me define what I mean by “cheap shot:” It’s okay to be mean in commentary so long as a) the cruelty has some relevance to the story or subject at hand; b) it sheds some light, however faint, on the matter; c) it’s funny.
So when I say the comic book biography of Donald Trump will by necessity be filled with empty thought balloons, I am not only making a mean-spirited remark, I am also attempting to comment on the Donald’s recent political lumberings, which lie somewhere on a disintegration spectrum between Jaoquin Phoenix’s public breakdown, later revealed to be performance art, and Charley Sheen’s, which, sadly has been devoid of any art whatsoever, even the artless kind.
Is Trump really the swinish egomaniac he’s appeared to be lately? Or is it all an act, a ploy to boost ratings for “Celebrity Apprentice?” Actually, I’m not sure the two questions are mutually exclusive, even if the answer to both is “yes.”
According to the Guardian, Bluewater Productions will publish a graphic biography next Fall titled Political Power: Donald Trump. Which is an odd thing to call the book, since Trump has no political power and is unlikely to acquire any between now and Halloween.
“We’re trying to portray him less as a caricature and more as potential leader of the free world,” said Bluewater president Darren Davis. “Whether you agree with his political posturing or find him completely self-interested and insincere, he’s pulling up a chair at the 2012 Republican presidential nomination table.”
Heh. Heh-heh. Ha-ha. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. (Gasp!) Haw-haw-haw! Hahaha. Heh. Heh-heh. Heh. Hold on, let me collect myself here. That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week. Heh-heh. Heh.
Okay. I’d say you might want to get that book out a little before Autumn, pal. Judging by this story from Politico, “Donald Trump’s Poll Numbers Collapse,” the optimum publication date for a Trump biography would be last Friday.
What really attracted me to the comic book bio story, though, is the idea of a graphic depiction of the Donald’s life with thought balloons. As anyone knows who saw the “I’m really, really, really, really proud of myself” press conference last week, Donald Trump has absolutely no inner life. None. Clearly, whatever thought forms in his mind immediately comes out his mouth. Doesn’t it?
Now I would understand if Trump’s Tea Party supporters, should any remain at this date, accuse this entire column of being a cheap shot. In all modesty– which is to say: none — I think I avoid the charge by adhering to the criteria laid out at the top.
Which brings me back to Carolyn Kellogg, a book reviewer and blogger for the L.A. Times who was apparently vacationing in Orlando when she decided to visit the house where Jack Kerouac lived with his Mom for a year while writing The Dharma Bums.
Like most of Kellogg’s stuff, her account of this visit is pretty good — tight, evocative, informative and best of all it has a voice. So Kellogg really didn’t need to resort to a swipe at my state near the top, where she writes: “I know: Florida? Jack Kerouac lived in Florida?”
This remark could, of course, indicate genuine surprise — if Kellogg came not from Los Angeles but, say, Mars. Anyone with the least knowledge of Kerouac’s life or the history of the Beats well knows that Kerouac not only lived but also died here, drunk, in a chair at his mother’s house in St. Petersburg, at the age of 47.
What Kellogg really means is “what was such a cool guy doing in Flo-ri-duh?!?” Well, I got news for you, Florida has attracted writers throughout its history, and boasts a literary tradition to rival that of California, or, indeed, any place in the country except for New York City.
Proof? Even a partial list of writers who lived or at least wintered here is a veritable pantheon of immortals: Robert Frost, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, Tennessee Williams, John Malcolm Brinnin, James Kirkwood, Peter Matthiessen, Joy Williams, John Hersey, Marilyn French, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jim Harrison, Tom McGuane, Elmore Leonard, Zora Neale Hurston, Robert Olen Butler, Harry Crews, Donald Justice, Thomas Sanchez, John D. MacDonald, Randolph Caldecott…
So, no, it’s not such a surprise that a writer like Kerouac lived and worked, at least for a time, in the Sunshine State. As messed up as this place is (and it is), some few of us view it with a deep and abiding attachment. I’m not from Florida, but believe me, I got here as soon as I could.