Thursday, August 2, 2007

Book Nook

I have discovered Christopher Buckley.

Satire comes in many forms, but its overriding purpose is to ridicule folly wherever it can be found. It doesn’t hurt if it’s also funny. Christopher Buckley is very funny. His favored targets are Washington beltway insiders, PR flacks, politicians, and their enablers in the media. Buckley’s own political bias is not easy to discern, which is surprising, considering his pedigree: son of William F., graduate of Yale, member of Skull and Bones, former speech writer for George Bush I. One would peg him as an urbane, eastern establishment conservative, and one would probably be right, but how do you label someone who creates characters like the 30-year-old public relations specialist whose favored method for solving the social security crisis is voluntary suicide for baby boomers? Or the junior Senator from Massachusetts who is inspired to run for Congress after an epiphany experienced while tripping on acid at the Kennedy Presidential Library? Or the spokesman for the Religious Right, a preacher equal parts Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton, a virginal 40-something tub of lard who dresses like Colonel Sanders, is always ready to go on camera to rail against America’s moral failings, but who nevertheless has a crisis of faith, gets involved with Russian prostitutes, may, in fact, have killed his own mother, but who in the end turns out to be an OK guy after all?

The novel in question is Boomsday, which satirizes self-indulgent baby boomers and the problems they have caused, along with those who would try to solve those problems. This seems to be a theme with Buckley: good intentions (especially governmental good intentions) often cause more problems than they solve. I’m currently reading Florence of Arabia, in which the title character is a U.S. State Department employee who is sent to a fictional Middle Eastern emirate to start a satellite TV station with the aim of airing programming that will lead to the emancipation of women in the Middle East. I’m at the point where her efforts are about to blow up in her face. Who is the target of this satire? The U.S. for trying to fix the Middle East, or the Middle East for needing fixing in the first place?

The book that started me on my Buckley kick was No Way to Treat a First Lady, in which a Hillaryesque first lady is put on trial for assassination when her philandering husband dies after a marital spat. The spat is precipitated by a presidential affair in the Lincoln bedroom with a dim-bulb socially conscious singer/actress (shades of Streisand?) who is prone to believing everything her press agent says about her efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Pure bliss.


Neil said...
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Neil said...

You would like Thank You For Smoking (the book--I haven't seen the movie). Put it on your list.

(And I think you're right about his politics.)