Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Generation Ex

I’m going to have to give Christopher Buckley some further consideration. I’ve been absorbed off and on over the past week with Boomsday, his latest satirical consideration of modern-day America. I don’t lean much towards conservative humorists, with the possible exception of P.J. O’Rourke because a) they’re not funny and b) they’re usually Republicans, who tend to be extremely comical but only in a this-can’t-be-happening, weeping-for-the-death-of-common-sense sort of way. I certainly wasn’t expecting generational insight from the son of William F. Buckley, Jr. a former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush and a card-carrying member of Skull and Bones.

I liked the movie version of Thank You For Smoking, the abruptly deleted sex scene with Katie Holmes Cruise Hubbard notwithstanding, but thought it could have veered much further to the edge in terms of acid wit. It’s interesting that Buckley purposefully walks a very fine line, pointing fun at his subjects without exposing them to the harshest light available. But for entertainment’s sake, I may have to revisit Little Green Men and his last couple of pointed lampoons of Washingtonian buffoonery.

That said, Boomsday’s attraction is in its setup and had Buckley run with the premise – the text-messaging, blog-ranting citizens of what generational demographers call “Gen Y” or “Millennials” have run amuck – it might have a longer shelf life. Urged on by a disillusioned, ferocious blogger named Cassandra, these untamed youths have tired of paying taxes so that spendthrift Baby Boomers can keep up their private airplanes and golf course. Attacking gated communities and burning their social security cards seem to the first waves of what column writers have dubbed “Boomsday”…

But then it reverts to Buckley’s insider snarking at low-blow beltway politics. The lead character, Cassandra Devine, is eminently likeable though. She’s been abandoned financially by her selfish, narcissist bastard of a father, who has poured Cass’ Yale money into a failing Internet startup. Her story takes a left turn into further weirdness. She joins the Army, is assigned to babysit a peculiar Kennedy-esque Senator named Randy Jepperson during a jaunty outing in Bosnia, and he promptly drives them into a minefield. Several months later, the Red Bull-chugging blogger-by-night finds herself in the midst of an Internet-age revolution (which is to say, not much of an overthrow in the slightest, but quite noisy).

I suppose what I like best about it is that Buckley goes after everybody: boomers, millennials, politicians, bloggers, the military, social security reformists and incontinent conservatives all get the lash. Now if he’d just add a little more steel to the end of his whip, we might get somewhere. The audiobook is read by Janeane Garofalo, which might be worth a listen in the near future. An excerpt, here.

Further reading: here’s an interview with Buckley at (hilariously) AARP, a proper review at the International Herald Tribune, and a bite-size profile at the USA Today. At Borders, Buckley interviews himself.

In other news…just to add my voice to the chorus: holy crap, Oprah picked a real book. Somebody on her staff must have a head cold or a surreptitious heroin habit or something.

The Raw Shark Texts seems to be moving healthily along. While TheNew York Times bit back a little bit, as usual, the Los Angeles Times praises it in a decently written review.

At Things I’d Rather Be Doing there’s a short interview with Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime, where it’s nice to see that they’re still reading the slush pile.

“But once in a while – I'd say one time out of 100, or about once a month – I come across a manuscript that's worth some extra attention. Mostly they're not quite good enough to buy, or they're good enough but not right for us specifically (they're too long, or have supernatural elements, or feel too modern, or whatever) – but they're worth reading all the way to the end and giving the author feedback on.”

And finally, Ali Karim interviews Robert Crais over at The Rap Sheet.

I’m off to indoctrinate myself into the cult of Withnail and I. Don’t wait up.

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