What the Trumps and Kardashians Have Done to Us

The New York Times

There are those who have fame thrust upon them, and those who thrust themselves upon fame like an invasion force. It is the latter troupe of shameless, relentless thrusters that occupies us here, the Trump and Kardashian clanships. Until fairly recently, family dynasties — whatever skeletons they may have had in their closets — thrived on a mantle of achievement handed down from generation to generation, whether we’re talking about the Adamses, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Bushes or Flying Wallendas. Such a quaint ideal and needless effort this service obligation seems now, when exhibitionism in the pseudoraw is what gets rewarded, thanks in large measure to the phony theatrics of reality TV, which turned the social theorist Daniel Boorstin’s notion of a celebrity — someone famous for being famous — into a terrarium thronged with dance moms, mob wives and Honey Boo Boos. It has elevated into omnipresence those who would have otherwise played out a normal cycle in public awareness and then disappeared to pester us no more. Without “The Apprentice” and its successor, “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Donald Trump would have remained an egregious real estate self-promoter and gossip-column fixture, and his children minor adjuncts and boardroom props; without “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the brood bearing that name would have been living footnotes to the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Instead, one family wields incalculable political power, the other pervades pop culture and fashion like an incurable virus. The two books under review offer peep-show views of preening lives and impostures before they went panoramic.

“It’s so many freaking Trumps,” marvels Ivana Trump near the end of her memoir, “Raising Trump,” our author glowing with maternal pride at the fruitful multiplying of the three bundles of delight she and her ex-husband Donald produced — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — who in turn begat nine grandchildren: “Nine little monsters!” A self-proclaimed “Glam-Ma,” Ivana did a pretty nifty job rearing the three primary heirs, if she says so herself. And she does, numerous times, taking satisfaction in not raising a dreaded Kardashian or two. Where so many spoiled-rotten brats of the superrich spiral into drug rehab, jail, divorce court or a shoddily produced sex video, the Trump children, she proclaims, grew up to be faithful spouses, superb parents, accomplished business people and sterling assets during their father’s presidential campaign. “I believe the credit for raising such great kids belongs to me. I was in charge of raising our children before our divorce, and I had sole custody of them after the split. I made the decisions about their education, activities, travel, child care and allowances.” The Donald, as she immortally dubbed him during their marriage, was too busy being a big shot to attend to such domestic trifles. He had casinos to open, bankruptcies to declare. “If Donald wants to write a book about fatherhood,” Ivana says, “I would be happy to read it, but ‘Raising Trump’ is my story, from my perspective, about what I did, and still do, for my family.”

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