The problem for satirists these days is to make their fiction as outlandish and unbelievable as reality. Tricky job. But “these days” is the hostage to fortune in this, because fifty years ago Philip Roth faced the same dilemma with Richard Nixon. And his brilliant “Our Gang” (no, seriously, you should read it) has some scenes which are literally put-the-book-down-and-try-to-breathe-and-cope-with-your-stitch-from-laughing. Christopher Buckley’s latest effort never quite reaches those heights, but anyone who has enjoyed any of his other novels (Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, The White House Mess etc) will not be disappointed with this effort.
Donald Trump calls up his “favourite Jew” – a retired hotel manager – who chooses, against the advice of his wife – to become Trump’s seventh chief of staff. The novel is told as a prison memoir, and while it is thin not just on hyperventilation-moments but also plot, it is never boring, and often astute. It’s also – of course – a cheeky roman-a-clef, with some vicious (but accurate and called for) pen portraits of the horrors of the Trump entourage. There’s also amusing stuff about kompromat, and the Russian Communist Party. The whole Putin and Ukraine thing obviously jars at the moment, but Buckley can hardly be blamed for that…
Will you learn much about how power works? Nowt you didn’t know. Will you laugh? Yes, very probably. What else do you want?
Next up – a book with a few fewer chuckles, probably – Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”