A few years ago I watched the movie Thank You For Smoking, based on a Christopher Buckley novel, and loved it. I vowed to read Buckely in print and last week finally read the utterly hilarious Boomsday.
It’s a satirical novel set in Washington, D.C., with the protagonist Cassandra leading a “voluntary transitioning” movement to solve the social security crisis: she proposes that older people off themselves to reduce strain on the system. There are many juicy side plots: congressional delegations abroad gone horribly wrong, a PR firm founded on the premise that “those with a debatable claim to humanity will pay through the snout to appear even a little less deplorable,” a billionaire bribing Yale admissions officials, celibate priests fucking Russian prostitutes, and, of course, passionate bloggers burning the midnight oil to spin the latest scandal. (“When the going gets tough, the tough get blogging.”)
Buckley paints many memorable and laugh-out-loud scenes. There’s the President of the United States talking in the oval office to a religious leader who wouldn’t dare utter an obscenity — the President refers to his political opponent saying, “We need to come out swinging. Crush this cocksucker. Grab him by the throat. Kick him in the nuts, cut off his dick, put his head on a pike…” There’s the President’s aide whose “BlackBerry began humming like an epileptic bumblebee.” There’s the President’s opponent during an official debate: “I don’t need 90 seconds to respond to the President’s [economic mumbo jumbo]. I can respond with only four words: Shut the fuck up.” Really, haven’t we all wanted to say such a thing after a politician delivers non-sensical pandering garbage?
Like the best satire, the comedy sits on top of serious themes. The Social Security scheme devised by Boomers is indeed collapsing and it’s young people who will be left holding the bag. The way to gain influence in Washington is indeed through savvy manipulation of the media. Congressmen do sleep with aides. CODELs are indeed boondoggles to the nth degree. The smart, young, and angry do tend to move the world.
Boomsday will remind you why you love America and why you hate America. Our national motto, accordingly to one character, ought to be: “Since 1620, anything possible, indeed likely.”