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Thursday, April 20, 2017

“Wry Martinis”, by Christopher Buckley

294 pages, Random House, ISBN-13: 978-0679452331

Christopher Buckley probably hates it when his family connection is constantly brought up in reviews – he’s the only child of conservative dynamo William F. Buckley, Jr., FYI – but, frankly, I think he’s profited quite nicely from it, and so why not give credit where it is due? Here was a boy born with a golden dictionary in his hand and money to boot, and then he gets to go to Harvard, work on the National Lampoon, become an editor at Forbes (and do a little junket travel as detailed in one of the more nauseatingly sycophantic articles here), write speeches for the Vice-President, and then becomes a best- selling humorist. Wry Martinis from 1997 is a collection of more than sixty-five journeyman articles from over this time, ranging from the New Yorker to The New York Times to Forbes to the Portsmouth Abbey School Alumni magazine. Touched on briefly are any number of topics such as mad cow disease – could the animals be used to counteract illegal emigration from Mexico? – drunken Yale undergraduates – a growth industry, it seems – presidential debates – which, he observes, would be improved if all involved had three martinis before things got under way – and the Unabomber – the next client of O.J.'s dream team? There are also accounts of hoaxes successfully perpetrated by Buckley, including the well-publicized rumor that an impoverished Russia plans to auction off Lenin’s embalmed corpse. But the section entitled Homage to Tom Clancy takes pride-of-place and is typical of the book’s variety. It begins with a none-too-serious profile of the author written soon after the success of The Hunt for Red October, followed by a parody of Clancy as a U.S. Senator, then a savage review of Debt of HonorClancy is “the James Fenimore Cooper of his day, which is to say the most successful bad writer of his generation” – followed by an exchange of actual faxes between an unamused Clancy and a puckish Buckley. As a comic, Buckley frequently suffers from the Saturday Night Live syndrome: his ideas are often funnier than his punch lines. But readers hell-bent on amusing themselves will find laughs enough here.

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