Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough

I read Mary Trump’s book yesterday.

I couldn’t put it down, and no that’s not just a figure of speech. I confess it did take me past midnight, reading 200+ pages, skipping nothing, re-reading a few key passages. We bought the book because we expect to pass it around in the family, knowing there’s interest.

I love it when a title tells you what to expect: Too Much and Never Enough: How my family created the world’s most dangerous manBut the interviews with Mary Trump have been crystal clear.

Her uncle Donald & his supporters can’t be too happy with this book.

It’s a bit of a literary train—wreck. You can’t take your eyes off the unfolding disaster, and there it was this morning on CNN. I found myself looking at the players a bit differently, watching AG Barr answering questions. I think I understand the subtexts, as though this 42 month horror show were a psychological thriller. Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t be reached for comment.

Having a psychologist write about her own family might be interesting to begin with, if you didn’t already know the principals. Let me review the dramatis personae. Frederick Trump (“Fred” in the book) & Mary had five children, namely Maryanne (born 1937), Frederick or “Freddy” in the book (died in 1981) to distinguish him from ”Fred”, Elizabeth (born 1942), Donald (born 1946) and Robert (born 1949). Mary Trump was one of Freddy’s children, making her niece to Donald & grand-daughter of Fred Trump.

I heard an interviewer asking her why, why now, why this way.

If you’ve read the book you’ll know. Freddy is the older brother, who might have been expected to be the heir & logical leader of the family business. In the story we read, Fred and Freddy can’t seem to connect, although I suspect Fred’s version of this story would be different than Mary’s take. I find it very persuasive, given that Mary is relatively dispassionate in her prose, aiming to be factual. She’s a psychologist, and one of the few people in her family with real rather than fake credentials. I found it easy to roar through the book in one day, because it doesn’t disgress or go off on tangents. Of course we can hardly be surprised that Freddy’s daughter would seek to vindicate her dad, who opted out, first in a brief career flying jets for TWA, but gradually sinking deeper & deeper into alcoholism.

The pressure Freddy lived with is palpable in Mary’s account. She doesn’t sentimentalize.

Fred and Donald, meanwhile, seem to be on the same page of their dysfunctional story. From Mary’s perspective Donald is a complete liar & fake, whose image was a fabrication of the father. It’s then no shock to see on CNN this morning that everyone in the current administration are performers & fakers. Their chief skills are their ability to answer critiques. AG Barr’s reply to interrogation are consistent with what we read in the book.

The book is not a happy read, even if it does seem reasonable. But it lays everything bare, makes the news lucid rather than incomprehensible. I think any American reading this book will be voting Democrat.  It’s compelling even if it is also profoundly disgusting.

I was thinking after reading this that getting Biden as a president would be like resetting a computer to defaults. Even if you lose a lot you restore the default settings because your machine is messed up, and the alternative is unthinkable. It’s especially ironic considering Trump’s 2016 slogan “Make America Great Again”.  I think that’s very much what Biden wants, even if a red MAGA hat signifies an entirely different kind of “greatness” than what Biden & his supporters seek.

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This entry was posted in Books & Literature, Personal ruminations & essays, Politics, Psychology and perception and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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