The Twitter President chronicles the rise and fall of a populist chief executive in his own bombastic, scurrilous tweets.
Carl Rumble is a narcissistic entrepreneur from Boston who made his fortune building bridges. But as a reactionary presidential candidate he promises to build walls. Walls between countries, between allies, between genders, races and religions, dividing and conquering until no one is left to challenge him.
Yet in his increasing paranoia he believes everyone opposes him. No one expected him to win the election, and certainly not to keep his whimsical campaign promises, such as moving Mount Rushmore to New Jersey to attract more tourists, or visiting North Korea, or vowing that his transgender son-in-law will bring peace to Kashmir.
While The Twitter President is a humorous, over-the-top satire, it also serves as a serious warning about the dangers of privilege and tribalism, and the consequences that continuous social media distraction has in our age of Likes and Followers.
The format for this comic rebuke of tribalism and online discourse hinders the narrative and message. Writing in Tweets may suit short-form fiction pieces, but over the course of this longer work character development, dialogue, and emotional depth all become secondary to the form. Schreiber occasionally includes full dialogue scenes, accounts of spoken conversations between characters broken into traditional but Tweet-length paragraphs (“‘She’s not the same sex, Mom,’ Cindy shouted. ‘The idea of just two sexes is so yesterday’”), and it’s difficult to tell whether these are meant to be threads actually shared with the public or something more private.
The plot is entertaining and unusual. Although unlikable, Rumble’s an intriguing main character, a bombastic narcissist who descends into a hallucinatory panic. While some Trump-era satires can feel either too on-the-nose or too timid to match actual headlines, Schreiber elects to leave reality entirely, leaving behind current events while still managing to say something fresh. The Twitter President never feels boring or overdone, even as the denouement edges into the absurd. Readers looking for formally inventive satire will find pleasure in this quick, ambitious novel.
Takeaway: This satiric novel-by-Tweet marries political satire with absurdity and formal daring.
Great for fans of: Robert Sears’ The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump, Christopher Buckley’s Make Russia Great Again.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A