One of the cruel curses of the Trumpocene era, which likely afflicts large swathes of the literate within a society daydreaming toward totalitarianism, is the random reminder of your kakistocratic overlords while trying to enjoy a novel. For instance, reading Dara’s The Easy Chain after the 2016 election, it was difficult not to draw lines between the promosexual swindler with small hands at the empty center of the book and the orange glob of dark matter that lives in our headlines and belches blue ruin.
I keep returning to this section in Part I of Jim Gauer’s Novel Explosives, where the poet and Frankfurt School Marxist is being run through the wringer while interviewing for a position at a venture capital firm, seeking to curry favor with a trio of well-heeled imbeciles:
“One of my own new partners, in fact, one of the firm’s two founders a man of such pure and unalloyed greed that wealth and possessions had long ago lost all meaning, leaving him with a vicious streak, common among the greedy for whom success means nothing unless those around them fail, this partner, as I was saying, whose greed was so voracious that it was devouring its own entrails, still found time, one beautiful Aspen winter, to put in nearly 70 full days on the slopes. The other founder, a vacation connoisseur, and a man for whom wealth was the bedrock of his vanity, that sense of himself, common among the wealthy, of being a man of true discernment and inexhaustible sagacity, this other partner, as I was saying, whose vanity was so thorough that it had swallowed him whole, could always be found, in the midst of a crisis, missing in action on a sun-drenched private yacht. And my third and final partner, the junior of the three, a delusional apopheniac whose specialty was conspiracy theories, who was constantly finding proof, in meaningless random data, of vile acts of perfidy that he himself had initiated, this final partner, in short, whom I’m hesitant to speak of, as it might tend to confirm his suspicion that it is he of whom I speak, scarcely worked at all, other than on his conspiracy theories….
It is to Gauer’s credit that he can lace his paragraphs with such compounding insights, even if, in this particular slice of time, they keep summoning the specter that you are actively trying to avoid.
“I don’t mean to pick on these particular individuals; most wealthy VCs share a similar ethos, with an asset-backed ontology, and a money-means-wisdom accrual-based epistemology, and also share the problem, common among the merely moneyed, of never having enough of it to constitute true wealth….One of the reasons that such men often seem to despise the impoverished is the deep fear they have that, despite their poverty, the poor may be leading meaningful lives, which almost seems cruel, given the foregoing, when despite all their money, they barely feel viable.”