Never one to shy away from a little satirical fiction, I turned to Christopher Buckley’s latest novel, full of poignant storytelling to get me ready for the upcoming election cycle. Ready to rake many over the coals and do so in the most tongue-in-cheek fashion, Buckley provides the reader with a hilarious outpouring of scandalous goings-on in the heart of Washington. Herbert K. Nutterman is enjoying his retirement years, but when the phone rings all that comes crashing to a halt. Having spent close to thirty years with Donald J. Trump in his various hospitality ventures, he knows the man all too well, enough that when POTUS calls to speak to ‘my favourite Jew’, Nutterman can only wince. Nutterman is invited to become the next White House Chief of Staff. While his wife cannot stomach the idea, Nutterman knows that he cannot say no to the Leader of the Free World. Not long after taking the job, Nutterman is shocked alongside the rest of the world when news from Moscow comes that President Vladimir Putin has lost the presidential election to a communist. The margin of victory is small enough that there will need to be a run-off, but still, this is bad news. POTUS is beside himself, worried that his international buddy is potentially set to be knocked off his pedestal and vows to do whatever he can to help. During a confidential meeting, Nutterman learns that one of the US Intelligence computers may have played a part in rigging the results. Nutterman refuses to share this with his boss, but is sure that the run-off will set things straight and Putin will remain in power. Meanwhile, POTUS has been asked to reverse a law that has frozen the assets of a Russian oligarch and is happy to pass this along. Devising a plan to pass a law that will permit more molybdenum (a strong metal that may be useful for American military weapons), POTUS hopes to rush this through and leave the public none the wiser. However, re-election is inching closer and POTUS has no time for any delays. Nutterman must work his magic to ensure nothing topples the apple cart and that America has at least four more years to continue its greatness (and maybe more if POTUS needs them and wants to negate the 22nd Amendment). This great piece leaves no stone unturned and keeps the reader snickering throughout, permitted they have an open mind and do not mind a little political ribbing. Recommended to those who can handle a little mockery of the American political situation, as well as the reader who needs a little humour to lighten their pre-election cycle mood.
I have always enjoyed the work of Christopher Buckley, as it is both on point and quite humorous in its portrayal of the new reality in which the world finds itself. Buckley veils many of his commentaries in serious goings-on but cannot promise that he will not eviscerate all those he finds troublesome and worth a bit of mockery. Herbert Nutterman is the perfect protagonist for this piece, tied to a man he has known for many years but aware of the numerous train-wrecks that are sure to come. Nutterman seeks to succeed when many others have failed while keeping the wheels on the American state and the presidency at the same time. With a wife who refuses to accept his circus of a job and a number of people, both within and outside the Administration, testing his patience, Nutterman can only hope to find some solace that he is doing the best he can. However, as the reader will discover, something surely goes very wrong, particularly from the repeated clues that Nutterman offers about where and how he is writing this piece in the future. Other characters provide added fodder to the mockery that is the situation of the current US Administration, including numerous Russians who seek to sweeten the pot for themselves. Collusion is only one of the issues that underlie the ongoing interactions throughout this book, exacerbating the already strong whisper campaign that America has become a Russian puppet. Buckley uses a strong story that has some degree of possibility to weave quite the tale and keeps the reader on their toes as they try not to tear up with laughter as it relates to the countless moments of mockery that emerge throughout. With strong chapters that keep the story moving and a cast of characters, many of whom depict real personas in the Washington sphere, Buckley entertains like few others can while also proposing the seriousness of the path America is taking away from anything resembling greatness. One can only wonder what November 3, 2020 will bring, but whatever it is, the history books will surely be full of footnotes about the craziness these past four years have been.
Kudos, Mr. Buckley, for keeping me laughing throughout. While things are surely a nightmare at present, you show the silver lining and leave me hoping that the electorate will wake up and see how they can fix things before they are too far gone.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons