Printer Friendly


Donald Trump is mentioned only briefly in Ben Lerner's novel The Topeka School, but the president, and the world he has come to define, looms over the plot. It's the story of Trump in sotto voce.

Set mostly in the late 1990s amid the hypercompetitive world of high school debate, the book attempts to locate the roots of today's political moment--including and especially Trump, the alt-right, and the country's coastal/flyover partisan-geographical divide-in the psychological alienation and dislocated male rage of Clinton-era middle America.

Much of the story is quasi-autobiographical, and Lerner is remarkably effective at capturing the oddly specific culture of the pre-9/11 high-school debate circuit. If there's a flaw, it's diffusion: The novel struggles to contain its sprawling story and perspectives.

Lerner's personal experience and poetic sensibility imbue The Topeka School with a sense of distance and trauma. Trump was always looming, the book seems to say, always present in our lives, the inevitable consequence of our politics and our culture. We just didn't know it.

COPYRIGHT 2020 Reason Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2020 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Suderman, Peter
Publication:Reason Magazine
Date:Feb 14, 2020
Next Article:AMERICANS.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters