Books

The Topeka School

Trump was always looming, the book seems to say, we just didn't know it.

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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.

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  1. And thank god. Otherwise the left would continue to steam roll the Romney types who apologize on command for the sin of being white or enjoying the fruits of capitalism.

    The right now fights back. Enjoy the show. And please collect your tears, I’ll pay $30 a vial. Should help pay for your coding lessons.

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      1. Beautiful that this follows ‘learn to code’

    2. The right now fights back.

      But what are you fighting for?

      1. I would wager that my personal sentiment is shared by many… fighting to be left alone by progressives and leftist moralists who intrude into our lives uninvited proclaiming their superiority and demanding fealty to their ways.

        Sure, some are fighting to impose their way of life, but usually they are for imposing it right where they live which makes sense. They leave the rest of the world alone by and large. The left, philosophically, can not do that and is compelled to spread like a virus inflicting everyone.

      2. Preventing Marxist psychopaths like you from committing genocide for one.

      3. The right to party.

      4. But what are you fighting for?

        Free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, etc…
        You know, all the stuff you progs hate.

    3. The sin of “enjoying the fruits of capitalism” belongs entirely to the statists (including Trump) who raise taxes and borrow in order to spend spend spend. They do nothing productive to increase those fruits.

      Get that straight: government is a drag on the economy, every single part of it. Nothing government does is responsible for any increase in productivity. Even the parts that should be productivity aids, such as the legal system, are so inept and inefficient that private alternatives spring up wherever the government does not forbid the competition: arbitration, FedEx/UPS.

      Government is the problem, and statists of all stripes are its proponents.

      1. Lol. Arbitration services are operated solely for the benefit of insurance companies and used nearly exclusively by insurance companies, where the adverse party has no alternatives and in many cases like auto insurance or health insurance is mandated by government to carry coverage. Imagine how fucking cool it would be if you had the ability to think past the end of your chode.

        1. Face it Janis, you died alone and unloved…

        2. Arbitration services are performed every time 2 lawyers and their clients sit down to resolve a dispute. They’re used in the corporate world all the time.

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  3. Another Lefty writer at unreason writing about a Lefty writer who hates himself and thinks all Americans should give into Socialism immediately.

    BTW Suderman, this fight by the “alt-right” or whatever you want to call us is not over. Almost universally, non-Lefties are fighting the Lefties and aim to set back the Socialist agenda for decades.

    Or the USA sinks into Civil War 2.0. Either way the Democrat Party is finished.

  4. That read like a high school freshman doing a book report using the minimum number of words required to meet the teacher’s requirements.

    1. And doing the report after reading reviews on Amazon, rather than the actual book.

    2. True. Or some maximum number that was imposed by an editor. I can’t make head or tail of the book from this. Suderman amazingly crammed in a bunch of long words to, like, what, get under some word count? My eyes go over and over it, but my brain doesn’t connect.

  5. Early 1990s high school debate was great too. We resolved that legalizing drugs was the way, and that space exploration should be privatized. Debate class was good for honing argument skills, and was a great way to meet awkward nerdy chicks.

    1. In my high school debate we had this guy argue in favor of the KKK. And he was serious about it. He was steamrolled by the other debaters and the audience.

      I never talked to the guy again. Just knowing it was the secret foundational core belief was creepy as shit. I sort of felt sad for him that his parents raised him to believe that crap.

  6. After reading this review, all I can tell about the book is that it has nothing to do with Trump.

    1. To a TDS victim, EVERYTHING has to do with TRUMP!!!!!!!!!

  7. Why is the last nine tenths of this article missing? It begins and introduction and then abruptly stops. Was it the server squirrels? Can we switch to server possums instead?

    1. Just accept that Trump’s policies were retroactively there while you were listening to Eddie Vedder.

  8. at least the asshole’s *from* Kansas this time. seems like Brown U. is the universal joke but I’m not Ivy League, so…

  9. “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.”

    note to self: write hacky novel with a brief mention of Trump to take advantage of free TDS-related media mentions

  10. 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

    This, gentlemen, is how you do TDS.

    1. “But Trump was not of mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which had wrought so great an evil, so that he could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind over the sea, and came back to Mid-Atlantic and to New York that was his home. There he took up again his great Ring in Trump Tower, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Trump the Terrible few could endure.”

      1. Schiff makes a great Gollum, no?

      2. Ash Trump durbatulûk, ash Trump gimbatul,: ash Trump thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
        In the land of Gotham where the shadows lie…

  11. Man you can stereotype these folks and be right 99% of the time. Mom was a psychologist…went to Brown? Oh how America is so screwed up..run by racist Euro American Protestants and Catholics who are isolationists and believe in the Bill of Rights, small govt, and sound money and are not fans of Central Banks and “social science”. Another “Socialist, Secularist” aholes who just know what is best for the rest of us. The real intolerance is on the left…

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  14. I think democrats are more responsible for Trump than republicans are. It was democrats who insisted for the last 100 years that the federal government and president have no limits (unless they’re republicans of course) and stretched our limited federal power constitution like Stalin stretched the USSR constitution to the point where it’s only unconstitutional if the other side does it. Of course, republicans have been happy to take the same view over the years, it’s only unconstitutional if a democrat is doing it, deficits and debt are never wrong unless it’s a democrat doing the spending.

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