Donald Trump, Pope Francis and Rex Mottram in Vanity Fair

Paul Elie, “pontificating” (his pun) in Vanity Fair magazine, writes of the possible results of this week’s meeting between Donald Trump and Pope Francis. He begins by comparing their respective elections:

How strange is this: a group of 115 unelected celibate men of advanced age, bound to secrecy, choosing from amongst themselves and casting paper ballots in the Sistine Chapel, elects a relatively unknown man who turns out to possess abundant virtue and wisdom, and who is also clearly a man of the people; whereas an American voting public of 126 million men and women, working from the copious information produced by a robust free press and an endless run of presidential debates, has its votes channeled through arcane electoral math and bestowed on a self-serving huckster who has a poor grasp of notions like “public service” and “the common good,” and whose idea of “the people” is “my people.” It’s enough to make you want to swap the Electoral College for the College of Cardinals.

Mr Elie is not an admirer of Donald Trump and goes on to compare him to an Evelyn Waugh character, also a businessman turned politician, seen to be of equal shallowness:

…Trump puts in mind the amoral, bounding industrialist Rex Mottram in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, a wealthy, showy man of “invincible ignorance,” as the Catholic tradition used to call it—a person who, a priest in the novel dryly reports, “doesn’t correspond to any degree of paganism known to the missionaries.”

That is not the first time this comparison has been made in the press, and it is unlikely to be the last. Elie sees little hope for a good outcome of the meeting:

If any piece of Francis’s wisdom could get through to Trump…it might be the rubric for discernment that Francis has followed since his days as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Jesuit provincial (superior) and archbishop of Buenos Aires. Here it is, cited time and again in the accounts of his life: “Time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; reality is more important than ideals; the whole is greater than the part.”

Elie goes on to consider how Donald Trump might react to each of these teachings. He is not optimistic. Here’s a link to the article.

Another Brideshead character appears on the internet in a promotion of menswear. This is on the website Mr Porter where a replica of Sebastian Flyte’s attire is on offer. This particular wardrobe appears in Charles Ryder’s description of Sebastian in Book One, Chapter One of the novel (Penguin, p. 24):

… “Sebastian entered – dove-grey flannel, white crêpe de Chine, a Charvet tie, my tie as it happened, a pattern of postage stamps”. Set against a backdrop of a grand English country house, the spires of Oxford and the canals of Venice, the novel is a must-read for anyone who has an appreciation for classic British attire and the vagaries of the English upper class.

A gray flannel, double-breasted blazer as well as a Charvet tie are featured. No crepe de Chine shirt is offered to complete the ensemble, however. See previous post. The promotion is not enhanced by a photo from the 2008 motion picture of Ben Whishaw wearing a rather garish mauve suit with broad white borders and a too large white fedora with a black ribbon. Clothing inspired by four other literary characters is included in the offer: Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, Patricia Highsmith’s Mr Ripley, Brett Easton Ellis’s Patrick Bateman and Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriaty.

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