Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review: They Eat Puppies, Don't They?

Christopher Buckley. They Eat Puppies, Don't They? New York: Twelve, Hachette Book Group, 2012.

If you enjoy hip and funny political and social satire, you'll like this book as much as I did. This novel is both silly and smart.

Bird McIntyre, a lobbyist working for a defence contractor with the delicious name of Groepping Sprunt, a maker of killer drones the size of blimps, finds himself working for a fictitious think tank funded by his employer. His new job is to drum up hostility against China, and, hopefully, more contracts for Groepping Sprunt. He needs the work to pay for his horse crazed trophy wife, but his marriage and morals fall even further when he falls in with Angel Templeton, a beautiful and hawkish neo conservative who sees peace as the greatest threat to America.

Here's a quick taste:

"What are you proposing? That we start a rumour that Beijing tried to kill the Dalai Lama on his way into a meeting with the pope?"

"Yes. Exactly."

"And what are we offering by way of evidence?"

Bird grinned. "Who needs evidence when you've got the internet?"

"So we post it on your Facebook page that the evil Chinese tried to poison him. And you expect that to lead the evening news?"

"There are a few details to work out." Bird leaned into Angel. He could smell her perfume. "Friday I stayed up until the roosters started, doing research. The Dalai Lama is the one thing having to do with China that Americans actually care about. Human rights? Zzzzz. Terrible working conditions in Chinese factories? Zzzzz. Where's my iPad? Global warming? Zzzz. Taiwan? Wan't that some novel by James Clavell? Zzzzz. When's the last time you heard anyone say, "We really must go to war with China over Taiwan? But the Dalai Lama? Americans love the guy. The whole world loves him. What's not to love? He's a seventy-five-year-old sweetie pie with glasses, plus the sandals and the saffron robe and the hugging and nirvana. All that. We can't get enough of him. If the American public were told that those rotten Commie swine in Beijing were" - Bird lowered his voice - "putting ... whatever, arsenic, radioactive pellets, in his yak butter, you don't think that would cause a little firestorm out there in public-opinion land?"

I won't give away the ending, but I will say that along the way I enjoyed Buckley's shots at bad action novels written for men, the kind you see in airport bookstores (Bird is working on an unpublished quartet of truly awful novels), as well as his imaginings of what happens inside Chinese politburo meetings. They Eat Puppies is brain candy for political junkies, but along the way manages to nail much of what's wrong with politics and the manufacturing of public opinion. A Mad Padre recommendation.

3 comments:

styler said...

Ever read Daniel Boorstin's studies on advertising and media in America? While scathing on our culture, the rules are probably universal to humanity.

Conrad Kinch said...

Interesting - I don't read much contemporary fiction, but I might have a look at this. Though I'm quite sketchy of China myself.

mad padre said...

@ Steve: Thanks for that suggestin. I don't know Boorstin but I just read his obit in The Guardian and I'm quite intrigued:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2004/mar/01/guardianobituaries.obituaries

@ Conrad: I would be curious to know what you think as a literary chap.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.

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