Review of Audience of One

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Rating

9

Qualities

  • Controversial
  • Innovative
  • Engaging

Review

Donald Trump has navigated the shifting media currents of recent decades so adroitly that he won the presidency. New York Times critic James Poniewozik offers an insightful, nonpartisan analysis of Trump’s rise, fall and rise, from real estate mogul to failure to reality-show star to political powerhouse. Is Trump a genius at mirroring the narcissism of television, or is he simply so narcissistic that the cameras can’t stop focusing on him? In the end, the answer doesn’t really matter, Poniewozik argues. What matters is that Trump has parlayed “tube time” to his advantage at every turn. 

Poniewozik’s text masterfully melds media history with biography. The notion that Trump has managed to beat the media at its own game may not seem surprising to many Americans. Nonetheless, Poniewozik’s exploration of how changing media trends have affected US society since the Reagan era, and how Trump’s story intertwines with those developments makes for an engaging, eye-opening read.

About the Author

James Poniewozik has been the chief television critic of the New York Times since 2015.

 

Donald Trump learned the value of showmanship and cultivated celebrity from a young age.

Trump was born in 1946, just as the television age dawned. In one formative moment, when he was a six-year-old boy, Trump watched his mother as she raptly watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on television. It was, Poniewozik writes, an early lesson in television’s power to transport and enthrall the viewer. Trump’s father, real estate developer Fred Trump, may not have grown up with television, but he understood the value of showmanship. The elaborate groundbreaking ceremonies Fred organized for his new building projects provided his offspring with another key example of how to gain – and keep – the public’s attention.

In his 20s, Trump cultivated a larger-than-life persona alongside his business dealings. He made himself a feature of the New York club scene, and befriended gossip columnists – exchanging nightlife dirt for a name-mention in their publications. In 1976, he landed a profile in The New York Times. The writer of the piece described Trump in celebrity terms: “He is tall, lean and blond…like Robert Redford.” In that interview, Poniewozik states, Trump worked the reporter in ways that seem comical in retrospect. He claimed, falsely, to be of Swedish extraction, inflated his net worth, said he ranked “first in his class” at Wharton and insisted that he was, in fact, uncomfortable in the limelight.


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