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    The problem for anyone writing satire today is competing with the front page.
        -Christopher Buckley

    sat·ire (str)

      a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
      b.The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.
    2.  Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

    [Latin satira, probably alteration (influenced by Greek satur, satyr,) and satyros, burlesque of a
    mythical episode of (lanx) satura, fruit (plate) mixture,from feminine of satur, sated, well-fitted;
    see s- in Indo-European Roots.]

    car·i·ca·ture (kr-k-chr, -chr)

      a. A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or
          peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.
      b.The art of creating such representations.
    2.  A grotesque imitation or misrepresentation: The trial was a caricature of justice.

     v. tr. car·i·ca·tured, car·i·ca·tur·ing, car·i·ca·tures.

       To represent or imitate in an exaggerated, distorted manner.

    [French from Italian caricatura, from caricare, to load, to exaggerate, from Late Latin carricre,
    from Latin carrus, a Gallic type of wagon; see kers- in Indo-European Roots.]

Christopher Buckley, one of our most gifted political satirists, here serves up a millenarian thriller in which the worlds of UFOlogy and Beltway punditry collide.  John Oliver Banion hosts one of Washington's most popular talk shows, with an outrageous and confrontational style that's more than a little reminiscent of John McLaughlin.  As the novel opens, he's interviewing the President, who, facing a tough re-election bid, is milking the space program for votes :

    'Mr. President,' Banion said, 'I want to ask you why, in light of your administration's below-par
    performance in a number of areas, you haven't fired at least two-thirds of your cabinet, but first. . . .'

    It was a trademark Banion opener: establish the guest's inadequacy, then move on to the even more
    pressing issue.

    '. . . let me ask you about something else. We have a report that NASA, the space agency, is
    planning to advance the launch date of the final stage of the space station Celeste to right before the
    presidential election this fall. Would you call that a triumph of American aerospace engineering, or
    of politics? You can take credit for both, if you like.'

Unfortunately for Banion one of his viewers takes particular exception to this attack on the space program, Nathan Scrubbs, who would be little more than a bureaucratic cipher, if the bureaucracy he worked for were not MJ-12, the top secret agency created in 1948 to convince Stalin that the United States had gotten ahold of alien technology.  In the years since, like most bureaucracies, its mission has become broader; now it drums up support for the space program by staging alien abductions of unwitting citizens and otherwise manufacturing elements of the UFO craze.  Scrubbs orders an "abduction" of Banion, which occurs, appropriately enough, at the exclusive Burning Bush Country Club.  In short order, Banion finds himself being "probed" by gray-skinned aliens.

After this first incident, Banion holds his tongue, unwilling to risk his treasured spot in the punditocracy.  But when Stubbs orders a second abduction, the faux extra-terrestrial sodomy has the desired effect and Banion soon turns his bully pulpit into platform for warning of the pending alien colonization.  This leads to a precipitous decline in his access and influence in Washington, but he becomes the leader of a national movement of fellow believers.  As he says when his wife and friends organize an intervention :

    'I was never one for epiphanies,' Banion said. 'If it had been me, two thousand years ago, I'd
    probably gotten back on my horse, gone on to Damascus, and hanged a few extra Christians just for
    good measure.  I mean, bad enough to have an epiphany in the desert when no one's watching, but
    on a golf course ?' . . .

    He sighed. 'But, you take these things as they come, even if they come in the form of little green
    men. I don't know what happened out there. But it happened. And your response to my telling you
    that there is something very strange going on is to pack me off to Well Haven to mainline Haldol
    and do origami.  Don't you see? This is big! This is the biggest thing that ever happened! You all
    ought to be helping me find out what it is.  And all you can do is wring your hands about how it
    might affect your seating at Erhard Williger's next dinner party.'

Against his will, Banion has been turned into an outsider, he is no longer a PLU (People Like Us).  He now shares the concerns off those beyond the Potomac.  His old Capital comrades, who believe that they actually control the government and who have nothing but contempt for the parochial concerns of the rest of America, have no idea that in reality the bureaucracy is utterly beyond their control and that the American people understand what's going on far better than the insiders do, however outlandish their beliefs may seem to those "in power".

Practically every review of this book that I saw mentioned how difficult it is to write satire these days, given how outrageous is the behavior of even folks like the President of the United States.  But Christopher Buckley pulls it off once again.  If nothing else, you have to love the metaphorical overtones of the government abducting and sodomizing its own citizens.  That alone is worth the price of admission.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Christopher Buckley (3 books reviewed)
Christopher Buckley Links:

    -ESSAY: Another March of Folly? (CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, February 19, 2003, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley (Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post)

Book-related and General Links:
    -BOOKNOTES : Author: Christopher Buckley Title: Wry Martinis Air Date: May 4, 1997 (CSPAN)
    -Forbes FYI
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of Little Green Men
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of God is My Broker
    -ESSAY : All-Terrain Zealotry (Christopher Buckley, 11/26/01, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Now and Then : What if today's media covered World War II?  (CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, November 10, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Barbara Streisand's Other Letters (Chris Buckley, Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2001)
    -ESSAY : Blind (Drunk) Wine Tasting (Christopher Buckley and P.J. O'Rourke, Forbes FYI, 10.30.99)
    -ESSAY : Wireless Shrugged : How it was in the days of the downtime annihilators (CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, May 2000, TIME)
    -ESSAY : WASHINGTON MEMOIRS: BOMBSHELL OR BUST (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review, October 1, 1989)
    -ESSAY : Hillary: The Op-Ed  By Hillary Rodham Clinton (as told to Christopher Buckley, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Death of the Prince : John F. Kennedy Jr lived his life in a becoming and graceful manner and handled his celebrity well. However, he was not a hero and does not deserve the... (Christopher Buckley, National Review, August 09 1999)
    -ESSAY : Big night for Bush :   Christopher Buckley, Norman Lear, Al Franken, Joe Eszterhas and other critics review Debate 2 (Salon)
    -ESSAY : CONVERSATION : Doing the dragon dance : Welcome to our Internet chat room: Chinese President Jiang  Zemin will now answer the questions of all concerned Hong Kong residents (CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, US News)
    -ESSAY : Memo  From  Coach (Christopher Buckley, The New Yorker, Jan 1998)
    -ESSAY : The Highest Crime (Christopher Buckley, National Review, Feb 8, 1999)
    -INTERVIEW : A TALK WITH MARK HELPRIN: 'I MAY BE AN ANOMALY' (Christopher Buckley, NY Times, March 25, 1984)
    -REVIEW : of Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (Christopher Buckley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE INFORMATION By Martin Amis (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE LOVES OF FAUSTYNA By Nina FitzPatrick (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of QUOTATIONS FROM SPEAKER NEWT The Little Red, White and Blue Book of the Republican Revolution. Edited by Amy D. Bernstein  and Peter W. Bernstein  (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of DEBT OF HONOR By Tom Clancy (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE RUSSIAN GIRL By Kingsley Amis (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE LITERARY COMPANION TO SEX An Anthology of Prose and Poetry. Edited by Fiona Pitt-Kethley  (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of BAD Or, the Dumbing of America. By Paul Fussell (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of IN ALL HIS GLORY The Life of William S. Paley: The Legendary Tycoon and His Brilliant Circle  By Sally Bedell Smith (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of FIRST HUBBY  By Roy Blount Jr.  (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of FROM: THE PRESIDENT Richard Nixon's Secret Files. Edited by Bruce Oudes (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of ZERO GRAVITY By Richard Lourie (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE COMPLETE YES MINISTER The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister. By the Right Hon. James Hacker MP. Edited by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Felix in the Underworld By John Mortimer (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The End of the Age By Pat Robertson (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE COLLECTED SHORT FICTION OF BRUCE JAY FRIEDMAN (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of ATLANTIC CIRCLE By Kathryn Lasky Knight (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, 1968-1976 By Hunter S. Thompson (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE WATER IN BETWEEN A Journey at Sea. By Kevin Patterson (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Gun Seller By Hugh Laurie (Christopher Buckley , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of It's My Party by Peter Robinson (Christopher Buckley , Washington Monthly)
    -REVIEW : of Monday Morning Quarterback by Jonathan Yardley (Christopher Buckley, Washington Monthly)
    -INTERVIEW : 'God Is My Broker': An Interview with Christopher Buckley (DEBORAH STEAD, NY Times)
    -INTERVIEW : with Christopher Buckley (Joe Hartlaub, Book Reporter)
    -INTERVIEW : with Christopher Buckley (at random magazine)
    -INTERVIEW : with Chris Buckley  (JOEL STEIN, TIME)
    -DIALOGUE : When Is It OK To Betray a Friend? (Slate)
    -PROFILE : TRYING TO SMOKE WITH Christopher Buckley; More Huffing Than Puffing (ALEX WITCHEL, NY Times, June 30, 1994)
    -BRIEF PROFILE : What Did You Do in the '60s (Fred Barnes, AEI)
    -ESSAY : Washington Talk; Fiction Mirrors the Loss of Majesty  (E. J. DIONNE Jr., NY Times, April 17, 1989)
    -ARCHIVES : "christopher buckley" (NY Review of Books)
    -ARCHIVES : "Christopher Buckley" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "Christopher Buckley" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW : of Wry Martinis by Christopher Buckley (Ben Macintyre, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Wry Martinis ( Mark Bazer, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of Wry Martinis (Gene Alexeyev, The Indicator)
    -REVIEW : of LITTLE GREEN MEN By Christopher Buckley (1999) (Mordechai Richler, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (National Review)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (AJ Jacobs,  Entertainment Weekly, April 9, 1999)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (Justin Torres, The Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post )
    -REVIEW :  of Little Green Men (Deirdre Donoghue, USA Today)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (Scott O'Callaghan,
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (Erik Spanberg, Creative Loafing)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (Book Browser)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (Josh London, American Partisan)
    -REVIEW :  of Little Green Men (Joe Hartlaub, Book Reporter)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men  (Seattle Times, Adam Woog)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men  (Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men  (Peter D. Tillman, SF Site)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men  (Steven E. Alford, Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men  (Craig Offman, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men  (Terry Peters, North Shore News)
    -REVIEW : of Little Green Men (FLORENCE GILKESON, The
    -REVIEW : of GOD IS MY BROKER A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth. By Brother Ty with Christopher Buckley  (1998) (Dwight Garner, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of God is My Broken by Brother Ty and Christopher Buckley (Alix Madrigal, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Thank You for Smoking By Christopher Buckley (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING By Christopher Buckley (1994) (Larry Gelbart, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Thank You for Smoking (R.Z. Sheppard, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of Wet Work by Christopher Buckley (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of  WET WORK By Christopher Buckley (1991) (Robert Stuart Nathan, NY Times Book Review)
   -REVIEW : of THE WHITE HOUSE MESS. By Christopher Buckley (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE WHITE HOUSE MESS By Christopher Buckley (1986) (NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of "Backward and Upward: The New Conservative Writing," edited by David Brooks (GARY KAMIYA, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Backward and Upward : Prose & Cons : Pens at the ready, conservative writers march forward into the past in a new anthology (Richard von Busack, MetroActive Books)