I haven’t talked to my college roommate in a while, but a mutual friend reminded me that her sister had roomed with Ivanka Trump at Georgetown. This would have been before Ivanka transferred to the Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania, her father’s alma mater, from which – until recently, when someone checked the records – she said she graduated summa cum laude. I wrote to my old roommate immediately. What was Ivanka really like? Had she revealed anything about her family’s Russian banking interests? My old roommate wrote back: ‘Didn’t you mean to write “Happy Birthday”?’
On Thursday, Wayne Barrett died of lung disease in Manhattan. He had written about Trump's business dealings for decades, mostly for the Village Voice, and for his book Trump: The Deals and the Downfall (1992), a portrait of a man who got ahead because of his willingness, at every stage of his career, to screw over anyone foolish enough to trust him. It was reissued last year as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.
Mormons vote for Republicans – everyone knows that. But they don’t like Trump. ‘Mormons place a high premium on being nice, and Trump is not nice,’ Matt Bowman, the author of The Mormon People, told ThinkProgress. After Mitt Romney said that Trump was a ‘phony, a fraud’ last March, Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City: ‘I have many friends that live in Salt Lake City – and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them. Are you sure he's a Mormon? Are we sure?’
The director of Harvard admissions has said that being a ‘Harvard legacy’ – the child of a Harvard graduate – is just one of many ‘tips’ in the college’s admissions process, such as coming from an ‘under-represented state’ (Harvard likes to have students from all 50), or being on the ‘wish list’ of an athletic coach. For most applicants to Harvard, the acceptance rate is around 5 per cent; for applicants with a parent who attended Harvard, it’s around 30 per cent. (One survey found that 16 per cent of Harvard undergraduates have a parent who went to Harvard.) A Harvard study from a few years ago shows that after controlling for other factors that might influence admission (such as, say, grades), legacies are more than 45 per cent more likely to be admitted to the 30 most selective American colleges than non-legacies.
Two years ago, the New Republic was bought by Chris Hughes, a millionaire many times over: he had been Mark Zuckerberg’s roommate at Harvard, and was one of the founders of Facebook. Last week, the man Hughes appointed as TNR’s chief executive officer — its first in 100 years – announced that it would no longer be a magazine but a ‘vertically integrated digital media company’; most of the editorial staff have resigned, including Leon Wieseltier, who for 31 years was the literary editor.
On Saturday I sat the ‘Life in the UK’ test, a requirement for foreign nationals who want to apply for citizenship or permanent leave to remain. My nearest test centre was in a dingy basement off the Essex Road. The fluorescent lights weren't doing very well. The invigilators were stone-faced, a bit rude. I'd been forbidden from talking to or looking at my fellow immigrants, about 20 people, mostly men. While waiting for the test to begin all I had to look at was the cover of my American passport.
Georgette Heyer's advice for novelists, from Jennifer Kloester's forthcoming biography: 1. Induce your publisher to hand over at once a sum of money grossly in excess of what the book is likely to be worth to him. This gives one a certain amount of incentive to write the thing, and may be achieved by various methods, the most highly recommended being what may be termed as The Little Woman Act. 2. Think out a snappy title. This deceives the publisher into thinking (a) that he is getting the Book of the Year; and (b) that you have the whole plot already mapped out. The only drawback lies in the fact that having announced a title you will be slightly handicapped when it comes to hanging some kind of story on to it.
One of the more unlikely heroes in English literature is Dickens’s rent collector Pancks, a ‘dry, uncomfortable, dreary Plodder and Grubber’, who shows a ‘sagacity that nothing could baffle, and a patience and secrecy that nothing could tire' to determine that the Dorrits languishing in debtors’ prison are heirs to a fortune that ‘had long lain unknown of, unclaimed and accumulating’. No such sagacity would now be required, at least in America.