Yes, this is another book about Donald Trump as president, and, yes, it is a fair question as to whether we need to add to the library on this particular subject. The better question is whether we needed all the other books, since A Very Stable Genius is the most reliably detailed narrative yet of just how chaotic and paranoid this White House is. That was more true of other administrations than Trump-haters like to admit, but in those cases the chaos and paranoia were usually by-products of policy making. In Trump’s case, they are the products themselves, creating what then defense secretary Jim Mattis called the “shitshow.”
To call this novel a satire is too facile, since so much of the action takes place through the prism of reality TV, which is impossible to satirize. The Hungry and the Fat describes what happens when a German reality-TV star heads to a refugee camp in Africa and ends up leading an army of 150,000 migrants toward her home country via the Middle East. The larger questions about Germany and its history—both with walls and the unwanted—float through the book but never sink it. Is there a market for a sharp, sardonic look at immigration policy? Yes, especially as written by Vermes, whose previous novel, Look Who’s Back, a black comedy about Hitler emerging from a coma, sold more than a million copies and became a Netflix film.
It is unfair that a magazine illustrator as brilliant as Robert Grossman remains best known for his image of a plane twisted in a knot for the 1980 film Airplane!, especially given the hundreds of memorable covers he created for Rolling Stone, Time, Esquire, and others. Grossman died two years ago at age 78, but not before completing his first graphic novel. Its subject is based in fact—in 1835 a New York newspaper published a series about life on the moon purportedly observed by a real-life astronomer—but only Grossman could have made that hoax into the rollicking fantasy that is Life on the Moon. Forget about that plane poster. This book is his best legacy.