The author’s audacity lies in thinking he could pull it off. But he did and in spades. Kevin Morley for the sake of legal formalism might state in sonorous tones that the book is not based on any living character although some real life events do blend in to create both a historical and contemporary backdrop to the narrative. He at least lacks the haughty hubris to raise an eyebrow when doubt is cast on the accuracy of that assertion: just flashes a knowing smile.
The main character is a guy called Ronald Crump. That reminded me of the time when a well-known footballer and serial philanderer took out a super injunction to smother any reference to the extracurricular pursuits that he indulged in. The papers, broadcast and social media were prohibited by the super injunction - a favourite weapon of the wealthy deployed in the furtherance of people knowing less - from mentioning that he had earlier taken out an injunction. He could not be named or identified. One of the UK papers respected the decision in so far as it did not name the soccer star, restricting itself to commenting that the sex worker’s - and he worked quite hard - name rhymed with Brian Biggs. Game over. Wealthy Philander 0 – Press freedom 1.
How Kevin Morley felt he could carve out a niche with a novel built around Donald Trump is anybody’s guess. There is so much in the factual realm about Trump why bother with a novel? Ignoring convention and what passed for common sense, Morley took the plunge. The result is a 470 page tome of wit, acerbity, sarcasm, cynicism, loathing, politics, polemic, editorialising.
A friend who bought the book as a present for his dad told me that the father felt it was a bit repetitive. I did not find it as such. Rather than repetition it is the use of a continuous thread that guides the main character through his life. It is the thread of privilege and greed. Morley follows Ronald Crump from birth, showing the influences that shaped him and moulded the insatiable sense of entitlement that he exuded from junior school to the presidency. His contempt for woman, workers and anyone who was not white and privileged was not fortuitous but hereditary.
The author knows he is writing for the converted. He has a captive audience. He aligns with his reader and at times talks directly to them in Hitchcockesque fashion. We are all co-conspirators in a hate crime, to which we all readily plead guilty, against greed, racism, misogyny, nepotism, corruption, murder, rape. Lots of phobias there, leaving spoilt for choice those who have made a national pastime out of something called scrabblephobia.
While I have never read the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell, I got the sense that this work had its roots in it. Kevin Morley lists it as his favourite book and The Misogynous President is written with the passion of an ardent socialist. I certainly got a sense of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, itself an unrelenting critique of capitalism and the notion that unalloyed greed is a reliable engine for driving a health society.
In a sense this is a Lefty’s wet dream and in part is perhaps motivated by the author’s experience and panoramic view of the strategic terrain, where no matter how many seeds are sown, the Left project manages to dislodge them rather than grow the revolution it so often calls upon others to join. Morley is no starry eyed student ready to have us all die for the revolution only to end up abjuring it and taking silk at the Bar after their three years conscription into socialism expires upon graduation. In his late 50s, he is a seasoned political activist. To have reached that age without being sucked into the well paid trade union bureaucracy or as bad, the Irish Labour Party, has to have left the battle scars. Morley seizes the only victory attainable, one offered via the world of fiction where, vicariously, revolutionaries are given some reward to offset the failures, often self inflicted, in the real world.
Yeah, the book is propaganda, but not a boring political tract about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. It is witty, scathing and a powerful social commentary. I read lots of novels – this is one I will remember when I no longer recall the titles of others.
Kevin Morley, 2019, The Misogynous President. Book Guild Publishing Ltd. ISBN/Ean 1912881357 / 9781912881352