The Monthly Memo — May Edition


Against a Coup

I find myself in a very odd situation. During the Republican primaries I was a #NeverTrump conservative. I never voted for him, I never advocated for him, and I was frustrated when the party decided time and time again to keep him on the ticket. To a large extent I'm in that same position today -- except now I find myself having to defend the president from the hyperventilating coastal media and politicians calling for his impeachment and removal from office.

President Trump is many things: an oaf, a buffoon and an incompetent politician. But he is also an existential threat to the culture of Washington, D.C., and its elites. His call to “drain the swamp,” whether he means it or not, has obviously riled his base and whatever base elites still have to ground themselves on. This goes a long way toward explaining the rage that encompasses the coastal media and its enablers.

Nonetheless, the white-hot rage that has been brewing among the president’s detractors since Nov. 8, 2016, seems to be reaching a point not seen since the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape a month before the election. Now, instead of calls for Trump to drop out of the race, there are calls for him to be removed by the Cabinet or impeached.

But these are unstable times and these are dangerous ideas. In an election that — fairly or not — cast doubt on the president’s legitimacy, in a political environment that careens between incompetence by Republicans and obstruction by Democrats, in a country whose social fabric is fraying, the calls to remove the president are reckless at best and damning at worst. The elites had their chance to persuade the American people to trust them: Between Hillary Clinton and the 17 Republican candidates, the people had a choice to vote for order and stability and politics as usual. But they chose the “Make America Great Again” candidate.

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.

How Real Books Have Trumped E-books

The advent of e-readers put publishers of traditional books on the defensive, and their sales showed it. Now real books are making a comeback that used to look unlikely:

Book covers looked very different a decade ago when the appearance of e-readers seemed to flummox a publishing industry reeling from the financial crisis and Amazon’s rampant colonisation of the market. Publishers responded to the threat of digitisation by making physical books that were as grey and forgettable as ebooks. It was an era of flimsy paperbacks and Photoshop covers, the publishers’ lack of confidence manifest in the shonkiness of the objects they were producing.

But after reaching a peak in 2014, sales of e-readers and ebooks have slowed and hardback sales have surged. The latest figures from the Publishing Association showed ebook sales falling 17% in 2016, with an 8% rise in their physical counterparts. At the same time, publishers’ production values have soared and bookshops have begun to fill up with books with covers of jewel-like beauty, often with gorgeously textured pages. As the great American cover designer Peter Mendelsund put it to me, books have “more cloth, more foil, more embossing, page staining, sewn bindings, deckled edges”.

Read more at The Guardian. Have you read any good physical books recently?

Prime Cut
The best of the best

Ma's mind raced. “Please, just take what you want,” Ma told Duong, his heart drumming in his ribs. Duong flashed him an odd look. “No, you need to come with us,” he said. “Get out of the car.”

The men patted the driver down and placed him in the backseat, where Tieu trained the gun on Ma's stomach. Nayeri jumped behind the wheel, and they set out for a nearby motel.

By the time they arrived, Ma was convinced he was going to die—he just didn't know how, or when. Inside a cramped room, he watched as his captors pulled clothes and cell phones from their shopping bags. The men were growing tired now, it was clear.

He watched as Nayeri, who he suspected was the group's ringleader, splayed out on one of the two beds. Ma was ordered to double up with Duong on the other as Tieu curled up on the floor near the door, resting the gun carefully under his pillow. For Ma, there was no escape and, with all the dread he felt, no easy way to fall asleep.

In the morning, as the sun broke through the curtains, the old man felt Duong roll over and grab for the remote. He clicked it and the TV came alive with breaking news of a daring prison escape.

“Hey,” Duong shouted, “that's us!” 

The Accidental Getaway Driver from GQ