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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley 
17th-Apr-2007 11:59 pm
Buckley, Christopher. Thank You for Smoking. 1994. New York: HarperPerennial, 1995.
          Summary: Nick Naylor is one of the most publicly despised men in America: chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, less formally known as the tobacco lobby. Suffering daily humiliations from the media, death threats, and an "assassination" attempt (by nicotine patches covering his entire body), life takes a turn for the worse when he is arrested for orchestrating his own kidnapping. Turns out that his own ambitious coworkers framed him to get him out of the way. In the end, he pleads guilty and gets a lenient sentence...after which he switches sides and becomes a representative for Clean Lungs 2000.
          Comments: A fundamentally comic novel that, at times, reaches heights of wicked hilarity when it's not too infatuated with its own insider wit. I loved Nick's many conversations with the self-styled Mod (Merchants of Death) Squad and with media mogul Jeff Megall. It's especially entertaining in the beginning when Nick is at his least sympathetic--shilling tobacco to pay the mortgage (on the house belonging to his ex-wife)--and I found myself smirking with glee reading about the guy squirming with discomfort during the obligatory media appearances. Oh, and killing a person by mummifying him in nicotine patches has got to be one of the most original attempted murders I've ever seen conceived.
          Unfortunately, the tale takes a turn for the boring as the plot boils down to the half-baked mystery surrounding Nick's kidnapping. The revelation that it was an insider job is no surprise and his revenge on the principals barely kept my readerly attention. Hell, his romantic fumblings with and eventual marriage to fellow Mod Squader Polly was equally unentrancing. I can see why the film adaptation (a must-see, if only for it's all-American version of the Pietà) decided instead to focus on Nick's rebuttal of the Vermont senator's scheme to put a skull-and-crossbones warning on cigarette packs, which is only a subplot in the novel.
          Still, Buckley unspools a pretty good yarn...clever, but not especially challenging. I'll certainly read more; his latest, Boomsday, sounds amusing.
          Notes: trade paperback, 1st printing
          Rating: 6/10 - The health repercussions of smoking sure as hell ain't funny, but after reading this little ditty, for a second or two you'll almost believe otherwise.
18th-Apr-2007 11:29 am (UTC)
I would also recommend "God Is My Broker," which he wrote under a thinly veiled pseudonym. It's particularly funny if, like me, you have a Catholic background, but there's plenty in there for everyone else as well.
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