The Stupidest Tea Party, Or Lewis Carroll Helps Interpret the Trump Administration

Published November 7, 2018 by Philip Ivory

(with apologies to Lewis Carroll … and no one else)

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Forty-five years ago, just as Watergate was slowly but surely evolving from a two-bit burglary story to a full-blown national scandal, Mad Magazine published a brilliant piece of satire: “Malice in Wonderland, or Watergate Through the Looking Glass as predicted by Lewis Carroll.”

The article juxtaposed statements by the likes of President Nixon, John Dean, H.R. Haldeman, and John Erlichman with quotations from Carroll’s two nonsense masterpieces, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking- Glass and What Alice Found There (published, respectively, in 1865 and 1871.)

Which brings us to 2018. President Trump assures us he only hires the best people, with the best ideas. But sometimes the things he and his people say defy conventional logic.

Calling upon the two Alice books and Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, I’ve put together the following bit of satire. It’s my tribute to the original Mad piece and my attempt to see if Carroll’s upside-down logic can be used to decipher the words of Donald J. Trump and his revolving retinue of rogues and rascals.

 

 

ON WORDS

“I know words, I have the best words.”
Donald J. Trump, Dec. 30, 2015

“They’ve a temper, some of them–particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however I can manage the whole lot of them!”
Humpty Dumpty, Through the Looking Glass

 

ON FEAR

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. …They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Donald J. Trump, June 15, 2016

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”
“Jabberwocky,” Through the Looking Glass

 

ON COHERENCE

 “Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world … nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?”
Donald J. Trump, July 19, 2016

 Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. “I don’t quite understand you,” she said, as politely as she could.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON CERTAINTY

“He (President Obama) is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS, okay? He’s the founder.”
Donald J. Trump, August 2016

“What I tell you three times is true.”
The Bellman, The Hunting of the Snark

 

ON MANNERS

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”
Donald J. Trump, Aug 27, 2016

“You should learn not to make personal remarks,” Alice said with some severity. “It’s very rude.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON THE WALL

“Mexico will pay for the wall, one hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re gonna pay for the wall.”
Donald J. Trump, August 31, 2016

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
The White Queen, Through the Looking Glass

 

ON FACTS

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, January 21, 2017
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood … Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”
Kellyanne Conway, White House advisor, January 23, 2017

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum. “But it isn’t so, nohow,”
“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.”
Through the Looking Glass

 

ON THE WORK ETHIC

“This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
President Trump, April 27, 2017

“It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down the rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — ”
Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON VOCABULARY

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe …”
Unexplained tweet by President Trump, May 31, 2017
“I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”
Sean Spicer, later that day

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Through the Looking Glass

 

ON COMMUNICATION

“Reince (Priebus) is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac… I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”
Anthony Scaramucci, White House Communications Director, July 2017

The miserable Hatter dropped his teacup and bread-and-butter, and went down on one knee. ‘I’m a poor man, your Majesty,’ he began.
‘You’re a very poor speaker,’ said the King.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON HUMANITARIAN AID

“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military and the First Responders, who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances, in P.R. (Puerto Rico) forever!”
President Trump, October 12, 2017

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON TURNOVER

 “This is an intense place, as is every White House. And it’s not abnormal that you would have people come and go.”
Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, March 7, 2018

 “I want a clean cup,” interrupted the Hatter: “Let’s all move one place on.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON MOVING ON

“I’ll now return to private life, to private citizen as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country.”
Rex Tillerson, March 12, 2018, after being fired as Trump’s Secretary of State

 “At any rate I’ll never go there again! It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!”
Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON ACCOUNTABILITY

“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia’ instead of ‘why it would.’”
President Trump, July 17, 2018, correcting an earlier statement about Russian interference he made while standing alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

“The cause of lightning,” Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite certain about this, “is the thunder — no, no!” she hastily corrected herself. “I meant the other way.”
“It’s too late to correct it,” said the Red Queen: “When you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.”
Through the Looking Glass

 

ON GEOGRAPHY

“I have great respect for the U.K. United Kingdom. Great respect. People call it Britain. They call it Great Britain. They used to call it England, different parts.”
President Trump, August 2, 2018

“London is the capital of Paris, and Paris is the capital of Rome, and Rome — no, that’s all wrong, I’m certain!”
Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON SANITY

“He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, quoted in “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON THINKING

“I know you’re not thinking. You never do.”
President Trump to Cecilia Vega, ABC News, October 1, 2018

‘Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, ‘I don’t think—’
‘Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

ON MATURITY

“I mean—I’m not a baby. I know these things.”
President Trump to Leslie Stahl, CBS News, October 14, 2018

‘If it had grown up,’ she said to herself, ‘it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.’
Alice reflecting on a baby turned into a pig in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

— Philip Ivory, 11/7/2018

 

 

 

 

 

New Fiction: Miss Brompton Falls 1938

Published October 26, 2018 by Philip Ivory

For years I’ve been interested in Menacing Hedge, which identifies as “a quarterly journal of poetry, fiction and artwork, which is committed to fostering access to emerging and experimental poetry and prose.” This month, I”m excited that Menacing Hedge is featuring my 11th published piece of fiction, a short story called “Miss Brompton Falls 1938.” 

I’m not really sure if this story is a feminist fable, or an old-timey stew of sex and violence. Maybe you can let me know.  Either way, it’s my third published piece that originated from my participation in the NYC Midnight online challenge, which requires you to concoct a story within a limited time frame based on a number of parameters that are arbitrarily assigned.

 

In this case, I was given drama for my genre, a beauty pageant for a setting, and a cash register as an object that had to be included. Sometimes it’s really difficult to incorporate all these elements, but in this case they came together in a fairly organic way.

The cash register suggested a general store, and that made for an odd but interesting setting for a beauty pageant. I hit on a Depression-era setting, which brought with it associations with economic desperation and the era’s fascination with outlaws. As I continued to revise the piece, the original parameters became less important, and the story took on a life of its own.

I had fun writing a period piece, trying to make sure the slang and the cultural and consumer references were as true as possible to this era. Mostly, though, I was concerned with the idea of portraying a woman whose inner state is in deep conflict with the situation she finds herself in, although circumstances make it impossible for anyone but the reader to understand why.

Click on the picture above to read it. You can also choose to listen to the audio file of me reading the story. 

My thanks to Menacing Hedge, NYC Midnight and a number of loyal writing friends, including Alice Hatcher, Bryn McFarland and Renee Bibby’s Writers Studio Master Class, who provided invaluable feedback that helped me fully develop the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Role at Writers Studio

Published October 20, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I’m pleased to announce I’ve been asked to assume a new role at the Tucson branch of Writers Studio. In addition to continuing to be a teacher on the intermediate level, I’ll be serving as assistant director and working closely with branch director Reneé Bibby. 

Here’s some info about the program and its philosophy, from our web site at writerstudio.com:

“The Writers Studio, founded in 1987 by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz, offers ongoing writing workshops — both on site and online — designed to help students discover and nurture their own voices. We welcome students at all stages, from those who have only dreamed of writing fiction or poetry to those with MFAs hungry for additional serious, ongoing instruction. Students provide the desire to write and the willingness to learn, and we provide the structure, the technical know-how, the professional feedback and the friendly community to enable them to reach their full potential.”

Janelle Drumwright, who has done an amazing job as Tucson branch assistant director for years, is relocating to another city. I hope I can carry on in her spirit and continue to bring the Writer Studio discipline and devotion to craft to students looking to expand and improve their skills. I’ll also be involved in outreach to potential students and planning of special events.

I started as a student in the program, and its emphasis on craft and the importance of creating a distinctive persona narrator for every piece of writing has been extremely helpful to me. It jump-started me after a long period of non-writing and put me on the road to getting work published. I can definitely attest to the program’s effectiveness.

New classes will be starting in January. Writers of all experience levels are welcome. Online classes are available as well as our in-person classes here in Tucson. Feel free to send me any questions about the program at philivory@writerstudio.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Scary Fiction: Keep Me Company

Published October 12, 2018 by Philip Ivory

 

In keeping with the season, I have a new scary story published. It’s called “Keep Me Company,” and it’s about an emotional bond between brothers that endures beyond the divide of death. And it features walkie-talkies!

The story’s featured in the 2018 Samhain edition of Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly, a literary magazine “dedicated to folk religion, spirituality, and paganism of all paths and stripes.” 

This issue showcases ten tales of terror, including mine, which were entries in the journal’s 2018 Spooky Samhain Contest. (My story tied for third place.)

My thanks to the Horror Writers Association, which ran a competition earlier in the year which I didn’t win but which inspired me to write this story.

The Samhain issue of Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly, which features other spooky content including ghost hunts, interviews and recipes, should make for great Halloween reading. So please check it out.

 Click Here to Order through Amazon today.

 

 

Spooky Samhain 2018 Contest

Published September 24, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I’m excited to announce that a scary short story I wrote earlier in the year called “Keep Me Company” has tied for third place in the Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly’s Spooky Samhain 2018 Contest.

Click on this partial list to see all the winners:

My story will appear in the fall issue of Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly, which should be available soon in print and digital form. I’ll post more when the issue is available.

My thanks to Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly for selecting me as a winner and publishing my story. Consider buying an issue or — best deal! — getting an annual subscription.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Story: Dr. Marsh’s Final House Call

Published September 8, 2018 by Philip Ivory

skylinesketch

I have a new short story appearing at Two Cities Review, titled “Dr. Marsh’s Final House Call.”

Read it here

Some back story: This piece originated from my participation in the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest earlier this year. In this contest, you are given a random challenge and deadline to complete it by.  The challenge includes three randomly assigned elements that you need to use to create your story: a genre, a thing or object, and a person.

The genre I was assigned was Ghost Story. The thing was a Power Outage, and the character was a Physician. You can judge for yourself how well I integrated these diverse elements.

If you subscribe to the philosophy, as I do, that limitations and parameters force a writer to be more creative, the NYC Midnight contests (short stories, flash fiction and screenwriting) are fun and useful. I didn’t win with this story. But by participating, I have produced two stories that have gone on to be published, which more than makes the contest worthwhile. (The other story was “How We Cured Racism,” published late last year.)

My thanks both to NYC Midnight and to Two Cities Review. I’ve written dark fiction before, but never a ghost story, so this was a great challenge for me and a lot of fun.

 

WYSa

 

 

Public Reading: “The Wonder That Was Ours” by Alice Hatcher

Published September 8, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I just attended a public reading by my friend Alice Hatcher of selections from her debut novel “The Wonder That Was Ours” at the east side Barnes and Noble here in Tucson. Alice did a fantastic job talking about her writing process and the evolution of her novel, which includes a wily set of cockroaches who provide outrageous narrative voices … hence the giant inflatable cockroach (see below) gracing the ceiling at B&N!

If you missed the reading but want to sample her novel, check out the generous excerpt in the current edition of Tucson Weekly. Buy the book at Barnes and Noble online.

Kudos also to Stephen Russell, seen standing in the last photo, another friend to Alice and manager at Barnes and Noble who along with his staff set up a wonderful community event. Stephen also celebrated his last day at Barnes and Noble today. Best wishes, Steve!

The event was a great success, standing room only with all of the available in-store copies sold. An exciting start for a significant new literary talent: My friend, Alice Hatcher.

 

Debut Novel by Alice Hatcher: The Wonder That Was Ours

Published September 4, 2018 by Philip Ivory

My good friend and fellow Tucson writer Alice Hatcher had her debut novel published today, The Wonder That Was Ours, and I couldn’t be more excited. Congratulations, Alice!

I’m eager to get my copy, because Alice is an awesome writer, who combines a sense of history and social awareness with wry humor and an ability to create compelling characters who are flawed but deeply human.

If you’re in Tucson, come out this weekend to see Alice read from her novel and take questions at Barnes and Noble at 5130 E. Broadway at 2 PM on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The Wonder That Was Ours won Dzanc Books’ 2017 Prize for Fiction and can now be ordered through Amazon.

A former academic historian, Alice has published stories, essays and poems in such places as Alaska Quarterly Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Notre Dame Review, Lascaux Review, Fourth Genre, Contrary, Chautauqua, and Gargoyle, among other journals.

Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire and The Daughters, says: “Hatcher’s unique narrators offer a bird’s-eye view of history, with all the glory and devastation that entails: an ambitious experiment that ends in an achingly compassionate achievement. This book is funny, warm, and piercingly intelligent―and it will probably break your heart.”

For more on Alice’s work, check out http://www.alice-hatcher.com.

Be sure to come out and meet her on Saturday. I’ll see you there!


 

Writers Studio Summer 2018 Intermediate Class

Published September 1, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I just completed teaching an 8-week summer session at Writers Studio Tucson. I had a great class with really talented students who worked extremely hard to develop their craft and produced some stunning material. Here we are meeting for a final pre-class bite at Brother John’s on Stone Avenue.

Writers Studio offers classes to help you develop your skills in writing fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. From our web site:

The Writers Studio, founded in 1987 by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz, offers ongoing writing workshops — both on site and online — designed to help students discover and nurture their own voices. We welcome students at all stages, from those who have only dreamed of writing fiction or poetry to those with MFAs hungry for additional serious, ongoing instruction. Students provide the desire to write and the willingness to learn, and we provide the structure, the technical know-how, the professional feedback and the friendly community to enable them to reach their full potential.

Our fall session starts in late September. Visit our web site at Writers Studio and sign up for a class today! If you don’t live in a city that offers in-person classes, try one of our online sessions.

Apparition on the Threshold: New Flash Fiction at Ghost Parachute

Published May 1, 2018 by Philip Ivory

I have a new flash fiction piece online today at online journal Ghost Parachute. It grew from an exercise I did when I was as student in the Writers Studio Intermediate Class in 2014, taught by Janelle Drumwright. The exercise is based on a gorgeous poem “Ignis Fatuus,” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Since I become a Writers Studio teacher myself, I have assigned the exercise a number of times, and it always yields interesting results.

My piece,  to which I eventually assigned the name “Apparition on the Threshold,” is probably the closest to poetry of all the pieces I’ve written.

Imagistic and enigmatic, it doesn’t pause to explain itself, instead letting images flow from one to another, allowing the piece to unfold according to its own mysterious logic.

This is a testament to the Writers Studio method, as I would never have written this piece without being exposed to the Komunyakaa exercise.

Here is “Apparition on the Threshold.”

(Before finding its home at Ghost Parachute, this piece underwent an arduous journey, which you can  read about here.)

 

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