Between The Covers

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, September 2020 Issue.

You hadn’t seen that container in ages.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man
by Mary L. Trump, Ph.D.
c.2020, Simon and Schuster $28.00 / $37.00 Canada 227 pages

You really can’t remember when you put it on the shelf. Sometime this year, six years ago, when you moved last? What’s in it must be worth something, though, or you wouldn’t’ve saved it. Now, as in the new book Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump, PhD, digging may yield answers.

No one has to explain to you who Donald Trump is but, for anyone who’s been completely out of the loop, Mary Trump is Donald’s niece (she uses his first name, always, and to avoid confusion, so will we). Trump has a PhD in psychology, worked at Manhattan Psychiatric Center while in school, was once a therapist, and taught graduate psychology. The point is, she got chops and it shows, especially when this book — a look at her family and, specifically, her Uncle Donald — reads like something from the True Medicine genre. Indeed, medically-based passages are nearly emotionless in their clinical nature.

To fully understand this story and where it leads, Trump begins with brief accounts of her great-grandfather, who came to America from Germany in order to avoid military service. After the elder man died, Trump’s grandfather Fred — as she refers to him — became business partners with his mother, and expanded the family fortune.

Trump asserts that Fred was “a high-functioning sociopath” who put his own self-interests above everything else. He was cruel for cruelty’s sake and ultimately used that against his eldest son and namesake, Freddy, whom Fred hoped would assume the family business but who didn’t have the heart for it.

When Freddy proved to be a disappointment, Fred turned to Donald, his second son, and gave him free-reign, an open bank account, and the paternal approval Trump suggests that Donald craved.

Once you get this far into Too Much and Never Enough, it shouldn’t surprise you; none of it will, going forward, because you know how this book ends. Long before that, though, Trump shares details of growing up, noting nuances within the Trump sibling group and the family at large, learning to read silences, and hearing regular racist or homophobic comments that made her, years later, keep mum on her marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) a woman. The cruelty, as she describes it, can sometimes read like a TV documentary on wolves at a kill. Disappointment was thick on both sides.

Readers may occasionally note something like sour grapes, too, but even that offers more of an understanding of Trump’s observations. While this memoir somewhat culminates with the fight over Trump’s grandfather’s will, a skewed inheritance, subsequent lawsuit, and the truth she says she found with the urging of the New York Times, the story — as she indicates — won’t begin to be finished until January, or a January four years hence.

Until then, this is a must-read for left and right alike, but beware that it might leave you feeling mournful — not for any one person, but overall, in general: Too Much and Never Enough just contains a lot of sadness.


You didn’t need the extra heat.

Camp by L.C. Rosen
c.2020, Little, Brown $17.99 / $22.99 Canada
374 pages

No, the evening was balmy; it had been all day, but you needed to watch the embers. There’s something about a campfire that’s relaxing, isn’t there? Something romantic about it, too, which means things can heat up or, as in the new novel Camp by L.C. Rosen, things can go all up in flames.

Sixteen-year-old Randall Kappelhoff had been thinking about his plan all winter.

This year at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens, everything would be different. He’d cut his hair and change his name — no more Randy, he’d be Del at camp. He’d act totally masculine, sign up for sports, and he’d reluctantly give up performing in the annual play. And at the end of the four weeks of camp, Hudson Aaronson-Lim would be Randy — um, Del’s — boyfriend.

He’d been hot for Hudson every summer for years. This plan had to work.

And it does. At first.

Hudson is everything Del wants: he’s solid, sweet, and his kisses are ah-may-zing. And as much as Del wants to “get naked” with Hudson, he knows he has to wait. Every past summer, while he lusted after Hudson, he watched Hudson find some random boy, let the boy fall in love with him, and then he’d dump said boy within two weeks. That was not going to happen to Del. Hudson would be permanent; he just didn’t know it yet.

But staying in character was not easy. Del’s cabin-mate, George, brought nail polish to camp but while Randy would wear nail polish, “Del” could not. Everyone in Del’s cabin was really into theater and they were all looking forward to the camp show but “Del” was too masculine for singing and dancing. Still, Hudson was worth it.

Almost everyone in camp knew about Del’s rom-com plans – everyone, that is, except Hudson. Del knew that he’d eventually have to tell Hudson the truth but by that time, he was sure Hudson would be in love with him and nothing else would matter.

The plan had to work.

Until it didn’t.

Okay, this: Camp is adorable. It’s all puppyish first love and awkward kisses and fumbling virginity loss. It can also feel long.

That may be the first thing you notice, since author L.C. Rosen jumps right into the beginning of Randy’s first week at camp, and the plan. That doesn’t leave much literary foreplay and it makes for a rough opening; fortunately, it doesn’t last and it doesn’t drag.

To the good, the teen angst inside this book is perfect, as is the authenticity of its language. There’s also a great mix of LGBTQ+ characters, but the story’s neon-sign is the thing most readers will celebrate: to wit: be true to yourself but be careful.

Read the book. As if the ending of it isn’t surprise enough.

Beware: this is a cute story with a strong message, but also contains some pages of explicitness. For older queer teens who need to read, though, Camp is just-right, with a little heat.


Have you heard about … ?

Gatecrasher: How I helped the Rich Become Famous and Ruin the World
by Ben Widdicombe
c.2020, Simon & Schuster $27.00 / $36.00 Canada 305 pages

It’s true. You learned it from your best friend’s husband’s boss’s wife at a neighborhood get-together last month and it was confirmed last weekend. You don’t like to spread stories but, well, actually you do because who doesn’t love a little gossip in their life? Who doesn’t crave knowing the skinny about the fat cats? You, nah, you love it, and in Gatecrasher by Ben Widdicombe, you’ll get an eyeful.

The very idea of living in New York City was exciting.

When Ben Widdicombe and his “handsome and naughty boyfriend Horacio” told friends they were moving from Australia to the Big Apple, most were supportive. One, a conman who insinuated that he was of aristocratic descent, even offered them a flat in The Dakota which, of course, never materialized.

This perhaps should’ve been a good indication of what was to come for Widdicombe.

A few minor pays-the-bills jobs and several different apartments later, after exploring their new hometown, getting their bearings, and enjoying the thrill of celeb-spotting, Widdicombe and his boyfriend accidentally moved into a building across the street from the founder of Hintmag.com, one of the internet’s first online-only fashion mags.

“… by watching and listening,” Widdicombe says, “I picked up a few things,” which led him and Horatio to suggest a fashion-industry gossip column for the e-zine. They called it Chic Happens.

That was fun while it lasted, and it pointed Widdicombe in the direction of what became a career in society-watching, storytelling, and dirt-dishing. It also gave him a front row seat in an ultimate cultural shift.

Back in the mid-to-late ‘90s, many of this country’s celebrities were “’high-net-worth individuals’” in the process of “becoming embraced as a sub-culture,” he says. When the new millennium arrived, wealth began to be perceived not as something one was born into or worked hard to get, but as a “bold lifestyle choice” which could be enhanced by outrageous behavior and plenty of publicity. And ultimately, says Widdicombe, this shift in celebrity attitude got us where we are, politically.

Between deliciously dish-y tales and cleverly analogous turns of word, Gatecrasher is one hundred percent delightful to read. Separate from the fun, it’s also informative.

From its first page, there’s very little holding-back in this book, which is gleefully wonderful; even when author and New York Times columnist Ben Widdicombe can’t name names, he offers precise-enough hints that most readers will know to whom he’s referring. In that, we›re whispered-to here, but not pandered-to; pleasantly scandalized but not insulted.

Even better, unlike so many memoirs of this ilk, the life of a gossip columnist isn’t presented as all diamonds-and-champagne: Widdicombe also writes of the frustrations of the industry, the everything-faux realities, and the let-down of clearly seeing both.

You shake your head at the latest in tabloid TV. You sigh at Washington politics. You scan the tabs at the supermarket check-out line, and so this is a book for you. Indeed, Gatecrasher may be the summer›s most fun book you’ve heard about.


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