Saturday, September 26, 2009

Buckley Makes the Whistle

I've been in a blue funk for over a week and tried Evanovich to raise my spirits. Nada. Took home a movie--erk! (see the review in Pics & Flix) Then one of my favorite people donated this off-beat little title by Christopher Buckley: Supreme Courtship. That's Christopher as in son to William F. (Mr. Conservative). The pressing question was whether a political novel would find a readership in Hennessey.

I googled the boy and came across an interview in which he describes life on the book signing circuit. Laughing out loud and reading passages to Karen, I decided he was funny, political or not. So the book came home with me for consideration and I have laughed my way through it, reading chapters to my determindedly apolitical spouse who shared the mirth. Oh, yeah. It's going in the collection.

President of the U.S., Donald Vandercamp is the ultimate Conservative, vetoing every spending bill that crosses his desk and incurring the wrath of both parties in Congress. In the ensuing war, his Supreme Court nominees are ripped to shreds and thrown aside. One night at Camp David, he tunes into the wildly popular reality-courtroom drama, Courtroom Six, where spunky Texas, down-home Judge Pepper Cartwright dispenses common-sense judgements. To the chagrin of all Washington insiders, the President chooses to put her forward as his next nominee.

What could have been a cute one-liner novella spins out from this original set-up into a convoluted, hilarious inside expose of Washington political maneuevering. Do not be deceived. This is not dry political humor. This is Saturday Night Live, Laugh-In, TV sit-com--all rendered with intelligence and affection by a man who lived in the shadow of one of the Founding Fathers of Conservatism.

Buckley pokes fun at all players--conservative, liberal, ethical and corrupt. But the fun of the book is in the characterizations. Pepper is so out of her element, the President is so wonderfully mid-western and genuine, and the plot twists that pull them along are so convoluted and surprising that the reader does not want the story to stop.

Follow this, if you can--Buckley makes it easy, I find it hard to condense: President Vandercamp does not intend to run for a second term, determined to do the very best he can for the country without the distraction of a campaign; however, corrupt and inept Dexter Mitchell (former Senator and highly popular star of TV drama POTUS in which he plays--the President Of The United States) decides to capitalize on his popularity and run for the office. The Congress, not realizing that Vandercamp does not intend to run for the second term, passes an amendment to the Constitution limiting the President to one term. Vandercamp decides to run after all, on principle and not willing to place the US in the hands of the inept Mitchell. The question arises, if the amendment is ratified before the President wins the election, which has precedence? the amendment ratified by the representatives of the people or the election won by the popular and electoral votes of the populace?

Of course, the Supreme Court will have to decide and Pepper Cartwright, his nominee, is crucial to the decision.

This author sees into his people, all the way down, and still loves them and hands us his microscope so that we can see what he sees. It is affectionate and full of light and refreshing in this day of poisoned pens and political broadsides. Maybe the sun WILL come out tomorrow...

Buckley tells us that "making the whistle" is a rodeo term for riding the bull all the way to the whistle. He not only makes the whistle, he rides the bull out of the pen.

Chris, your dad would be proud.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not So Finger Lickin' Good

We women eagerly await Janet Evanovich's newest Stephanie Plum novels, but the excitement over Finger Lickin' Fifteen was somewhat less than times past. I think we're ready for Stephanie to settle down with Joe and let the series come to an end. At least, I'm ready for the series to come to an end.

All the usual characters are here, Grandma Mazur, Lula, Ranger, Morelli, but the action is a little flat, like Evanovich isn't really trying. I usually am laughing out loud by the 2nd page or thereabouts, but not this time. It is funny...just not laugh out loud funny.

Lula witnesses a decapitation and then becomes the target of maniacal murderers trying to remove her from the scene. She moves in with Stephanie and the obligitory mayhem begins. Meanwhile, Ranger is having problems with his security business, break-ins that he can't seem to get under control. In a move that is possibly unwise, Evanovich makes him less than perfect. Stephanie is called in to help him catch the perpetrator.

Ranger talks too much. Sounds too ordinary. Even that sexy, one liner, "Babe" loses it's punch--overused. The characterization of Morelli is still right on and fresh, but the relationship seems hopeless. We've come two books too far and, though we understand that Morelli is right for Stephanie, we've also realized that Stephanie isn't right for Joe.

There is one haunting passage in the book that is not funny at all, and the writing is a cut above the fluff genre. Stephanie is speaking of Ranger, and she says, "I've never been able to find the place he would call home. Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe he carries it inside him. Or maybe it's a place he hasn't yet discovered." With those lines, she brings him out of the bat cave and makes him human. And she leaves us conflicted.

Fluff novels should never leave readers conflicted.