cover image I Dream with Open Eyes: A Memoir About Reimagining Home

I Dream with Open Eyes: A Memoir About Reimagining Home

George Prochnik. Counterpoint, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64009-547-2

A man flees Trumpistan in this overwrought meditation on politics and belonging. Prochnik (Heinrich Heine) recounts the buildup to his family’s 2018 move from Brooklyn to London, an event prompted by disenchantment with his soulless PR copywriting job and by the presidency of Donald Trump, “the Frankenstein figurehead of apocalyptic capitalism.” His exploration of the nature of America takes in his father’s background as a Jewish refugee from Nazi-occupied Vienna and his mother’s heritage of Yankee do-gooding; extended disquisitions on Sigmund Freud’s theory of the death instinct that allegedly powers MAGA xenophobia; and still more abstruse expositions on Renaissance painter Titian’s Diana and Actaeon as a study in the structural power of whiteness. Prochnik’s musings betray too much focus on Trump as the cause of everything evil. Several chapters revisit the trauma that the author and his liberal circle suffered on election night in 2016, which he compares to the sinking of the Titanic, the 9/11 attacks, Kristallnacht, and other Nazi outrages; the nightmare culminates in the “satanic Camelot” on display during Trump’s victory speech, followed on the bleak morning after by an eerie encounter with an little girl chanting “We’re all going to die.” Prochnik’s unfocused erudition illuminates little beyond Trump’s ability to stoke hysteria in his detractors while robbing them of perspective. Photos. (Sept.)