Putting the fun in dysfunction

You’ve heard people say, “Our family puts the fun in dysfunction.” Well, all families do, and mine is no exception.

But speaking of dysfunctionality … Whew, let me tell you…

I’ve just finished Mary Trump’s (Donald’s niece) new book Too Much and Never Enough — How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man. I’m not sure the Trump family is carrying the flag for dysfunctionality, but if Mary’s tale is accurate, they might be. According to Mary Trump, Donald’s 55-year-old niece, the the dysfunctional Trump family just happened to have millions of dollars to mix in with their dysfunctions. And well, that makes for a pretty outlandish tale.

And does Mary Trump ever tell her story. Boy O boy. Both Donald and his brother Robert tried unsuccessfully to get her new book from being published. Having just read it, I can see why. Mary does not tell a pretty story.

When the book was released on July 12, counting the pre-sales (including mine) there were 950,000 sales on the very first day! The book is published by long-time publisher Simon and Schuster, who reported that the nearly 1 million sales on the first day the book’s availability is the most ever by a Simon and Schuster book.

The family background covers the first third of the 212-page book. The rest of the book is Mary’s version of how Donald got his money and power. Mary is not a great writer but her account reads fast. We learn a lot about Fred Trump (Donald’s dad) and how he ultimately made his millions — hundreds of millions — in real estate, including building and owning apartments in New York City (in Brooklyn and Queens) in the the 1950s and 1960s. Fred continued heading his real estate empire until he began showing signs of dementia around 1990. (Fred died of Alzheimer’s in 1999 at age 93.)

Mary Trump tries to build the case that the way Fred treated his children had a life-lasting negative effect on them. Fred was a smart, hard-working, driven man without, says the author Mary Trump, an ounce of empathy in his body.

Here’s Mary saying that her grandfather’s competitive drive and commensurate cruelty were the main point:

“One of the few pleasures my grandfather had, aside from making money, was humiliating others. Convinced of his rightness in all situations, buoyed by his stunning success and a belief in his superiority, he had to punish any challenge to his authority swiftly and decisively and put the challenger in his place. That was effectively what happened when Fred (Mary’s grandfather) promoted Donald over Freddy (Mary’s father and Donald’s older brother by 7 years) to be president of Trump Management.”

Even in the 1960s Fred Trump was making millions from his real estate business, especially the huge apartment complexes he built in Queens and Brooklyn. At the height of his career, Fred Trump had more than 70,000 apartment units under his control. In the end, the Trump estate was worth nearly a billion dollars.

Mary Trump has a PHD in clinical psychology and she draws on that to attempt to show, mostly because of Fred Trump’s heavy, controlling hand, that Donald’s emotional life was never developed.

Mary is convinced, and attempts to show repeatedly, that at a deep level Donald’s constant bragging and false bravado is not directed toward Americans (especially Democrats, but really toward anyone who opposes him). As a close family observer and now as a clinical psychologist, she believes Donald’s words (his tweets, his vocal claims) are, in fact, directed ultimately for an audience of one — his long-dead father.

I think Mary Trump is probably right. So there’s a part of me that just felt sad as I read about Donald’s rise to power. Mary makes it clear that she thinks it won’t be that long before everything comes crashing down for Donald and his family. It won’t be pretty and it won’t be long. Even though the Donald Trump story is well-known and well documented, reading it from the perspective of a family member made the read pretty sobering, especially given how Donald somehow rose to the presidency.

In reading Mary Trump’s book, you actually learn very little about her — the true Mary Trump that is somewhere inside her. She’s guarded in revelaing much about her life.

The Trump family, to hear Mary tell it, always is out to get someone, and I wonder if Donald might figure out some way to throw her under the bus, too, given that he couldn’t keep her account of the Trump family from being published.

Fact is, however, already there are nearly 2,500 reviews of the book on Amazon, averaging 4.6 on a scale of 5. Sales are well over a million copies sold. And that’s all in the first week the book has been for sale!

From reading some of the reviews on Amazon, from early reviews in newspapers, and now from having read the book for myself, my sense is that most people are drawn to the book mostly to confirm their belief that Donald J. Trump is as selfish, narcissistic and sociopathic as they think he is.