So what fucking possessed you? A Trump book, I mean really.
My publisher, Unnamed Press, called me last January and we both wanted to do something against Trump and his minions. We threw around a few ideas, some of them legal, and came up with the idea—who would’ve thunk it—of a book. But not just any book, but one where I’d dig deep, not only into Trump, but into the intellectual, cultural and social roots of what brought us to this point. You know, context. Also, I was depressed, what else was I gonna do but spend my days obsessing over this man we had somehow elected. The old saying, write a book or get over it—someone said that, right?
But why’d anyone want to spend a few more hours inside that sociopath’s head than they already have to?
Thankfully, it’s my head, and my voice, people are spending their time in—and that ain’t so grim, it’s even funny. But why learn more about this waste of space president is because he ain’t going nowhere fast, not even if we get to impeachment. That shit takes time—and let’s hope Mueller and his investigation survives the all guns blazing it’s getting right now—an attack that’ll be amped up way past eleven if and likely when he comes back with a recommendation to indict.
So a few months, huh, late nights every night, riding a madman’s neurons? The obvious question: how much were you drinking?
As you are me, or I’m you, you know I live in Crete, Greece, where we have this lovely after-dinner alcohol called tsikoudia. So yeah, those long late nights writing this book, which often lasted well into dawn, were fueled, at least in part, in those final hours, by a few glasses of that marvelous little liquor. Oh yeah, and heaps of listening to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Am I dating myself?
You write novels and stories (and uhh… from your website—those are so fucking passé by the way—you “dream of making movies”—like who doesn’t?)—but has anyone even heard of you? What makes a no-name novelist think he can become a no-name political hack… I mean writer?
As I seem to have become a hostile witness in my own interrogation, all I can say is, who better than a novelist—and yes, a so-called no-name novelist—to tackle the intricate and charged emotional and political terrain that is not only Trump but the political machinations of an extremist wing of the GOP and their billionaire donors for the past thirty-plus years. Novelists have heart, they have empathy, and they’re often able to understand deeper stories and structures, and ask questions about not only where we are, but what brought us here.
From what I’ve been reading on the Interwebs, you’ve been milking this whole person of color thing, the outsider narrative, the immigrant’s POV on the Trumpocalypse, blah blah blah…
Is that even a question? And yeah, it matters, the outsider POV—I’m an immigrant and if my voice doesn’t matter then the whole reason for the country doesn’t matter and we might as well pack it up and go home, wherever the fuck that is.
But what can you possibly tell us—we literate book-reading sentient humans who’ve been obsessively following Trump since Day Numero Uno—that we don’t already know?
Well, my guess is that you know pretty much what I know, being me, but for the rest, I suspect quite a lot, even the obsessives like myself who found themselves drowning in Trump marginalia in the months after November 8. The book tells a story that starts in the 1980s with the presidency of Ronald Reagan—incidentally when I arrived in the US—and charts the implications of an increasingly divorced from reality GOP agenda, not only on national politics, but in the lives of average men and women. Plus it’s funny.
As the Powers That Be have granted me no holds barred access to your consciousness, I notice that you underwent gestalt therapy for some years, where an empty chair’s often used as a mute third party in the room. Now let’s pretend we’re back there, in that room, with your therapist, and that chair. What’s the chair saying to you right now?
C’mon… just humor me…
Ok, let’s pretend the chair’s my writing self, say as a young man starting out— working class family, born in Britain, Indian roots—and its been catapulted twenty years into the future of this young writer’s life, a writer who thought experimentation, challenging and mixing genres, and going against the grain were what mattered—that this is where genuine literature was born—only to realize that if you’re brown, if you’re a woman, if you’re working class, pretty much no one cares…
So the chair’s pissed?
Not any longer, the young man was, even as he got older, but sometimes the weather is the weather.
Are you going Yoda on me or something?
[An even icier stare]
Is that why you HATE New York?
Wha—who says that?!
Duh—you left, scarpered, turned your back on it, gave it the fat middle finger from onboard that island-bound schooner or whatever—what are we expected to think?
Hey, I fell out of love with the city. Big diff. I was there seventeen years. Do you think I’d live sumplace that long if I didn’t love it? And cities change, one day you wake up and you ain’t living in the same city you were ten years ago, the past is gone, what was a bodega sells Jimmy Choos.
But you must hate it a leeetle bit, right?
No, I don’t—and I hope people still wash up there and fall head over heels in love the way I did on a summer’s day in 1996 stepping off a bus into a stinking underground Port Authority bus terminal—the love was instant, I’m serious, because after living in the US for fifteen years, I knew I’d finally found a real city. But for me, it’s no longer what it was—the mallification of Brooklyn (let’s forget Manhattan), the sheer price of rent, the way you have to schedule coffee with a friend three months in advance, and a toxic literary culture—the land of “you blurb me, I’ll blurb you, etc”—I knew it was long past time to jump ship.
So an island, huh?
It ain’t bad. You should try it.
RANBIR SIDHU is the author of the novel Deep Singh Blue, the collection of stories Good Indian Girls, and the novella Object Lessons (in 12 Sides w/Afterglow). His most recent book, Hacking Trump A Writer Remembers was released on January 20, 2018. He currently lives on the island of Crete where, if you’re a betting type, you can bet it’s a sunny day.