In a totally mind-blowing act of literary brilliance, Chimamanda Adichie pens a story about Trump’s wife, Melania. The story, titled “The Arrangements,” is an imaginary take on Trump’s life, as told from the perspective of a somewhat insecure woman determined to be the best wife she could be to a man as temperamental as Trump.
The story opens with some thing really simple: flowers. Melania is about to order flowers for her parent’s 50th anniversary. But, as the story progresses, Melania inadvertently gives the reader access to the every day, domestic life of Trump’s family—her dislike for Ivanka, her condescension to Tiffany, Trump’s hatred of cellulites, and the day-to-day tricks and intrigues of keeping a man like Trump happy. All of this is, of course, set against current election drama.
It is Adichie, so the story hits all the right notes. It presents a behind-the-scenes, fly-on-wall perspective on the larger-than-life public figure called Trump. The story is beautifully written in that minimalist realism that we’ve come to expect from Adichie. She knows how to make small things like hair or flowers do very interesting things in stories. So don’t expect any high-voltage drama. Adichie’s Trump keeps all the drama in the public eye. His domestic life is more ordinary that you’d expect. Adichie shuts out a good bit of the election noise and keeps out the figure of Trump the Madman so that she could carve out a space to document the quiet intrigues of private life.
“The Arrangements” is about the little, familiar things that define everyday life—petty intrigues between a wife and her step children, sibling rivalry, choosing between peonies and orchids, being unhappy in marriage, and so on.
For a global community of readers who are astonished and daily scandalized by Trump’s excesses, Adichie’ story will be deeply satisfying. The story affords an imaginary but privileged access into the small, unremarkable moments in the life of a man who appears to be so monstrously larger-than-life.
The New York Times Book Review is running a series, in which acclaimed authors are asked to write short stories about the American election. “The Arrangements” is Adichie’s contribution, and it is brilliant.
Read it and answer this quiz: Do you notice anything African about Adichie’s American characters?
Here is an excerpt. Click here for the full story.
She sagged suddenly with terror, imagining what would happen if Donald actually won. Everything would change. Her contentment would crack into pieces. The relentless intrusions into their lives; those horrible media people who never gave Donald any credit would get even worse. She had never questioned Donald’s dreams because they did not collide with her need for peace. Only once, when he was angry about something to do with his TV show, and abruptly decided to leave her and Barron in Paris and go back to New York, she had asked him quietly, “When will it be enough?” She had been rubbing her caviar cream on Barron’s cheeks — he was about 6 then — and Donald ignored her question and said, “Keep doing that and you’ll turn that kid into a sissy.”
She forced herself to stop thinking of Donald winning. There was this evening to look forward to, with Donald and her parents and a few friends, food and flowers, the butler’s creaseless service, and the magnanimous ease of it all.
Barron [her son] had told her last night that he would not join them at dinner. “Too boring, Mom,” he had said in Slovenian. She missed his delicious younger days, when he was pliable and happy to go everywhere with her, when she would brush his hair and hold his perfect little body close and feel it almost one with hers. Now, he had an individual self, separate and wise, with knowledge of golf and video games; when she kissed him he twisted away. At least she had persuaded him to come down and say hello to the guests after they arrived.
She had asked the chef for a menu that was both “old and new,” and he suggested steak and watercress and quinoa and lobster and something else she did not remember. Her mother would like it. When she was growing up, her mother used the French or English terms for the food she cooked, as if the Slovenian would make them unforgivingly ordinary. She would serve a ragout for dinner, after a long day at the textile factory, her lips still carefully rouged, her waist tightly cinched, always striving, always trying to escape the familiar. A woman had to hold herself together, her mother said, or end up looking like a wide middle-aged Russian. [read more]