They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? : A Novel

By Christopher Buckley

(Twelve, $25.99, 352 pages)

Who is this author?

Being the son of conservative icon William F. Buckley gave Christopher Buckley a unique insider’s perspective on Washington, and this very funny writer has not hesitated to gore the many sacred cows of the right, the left and the in-between. His sardonic satire has earned him the Washington Irving Prize for Literary Excellence and the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Buckley, who lives in Connecticut, is a Yale graduate who by age 24 became managing editor of “Esquire” magazine. By 29, he was chief speechwriter to the then-Vice President, George H.W. Bush. He also was the founding editor of “Forbes FYI” magazine (now called “ForbesLife”), where he is now editor-at-large.

He also has written for many major publications, such as “The New York Times,” “Washington Post,” “Wall Street Journal,” “The New Yorker,” “Time,” “Newsweek,” “Vanity Fair,” “National Geographic,” “New York Magazine,” “The Washington Monthly,” “Forbes,” “Esquire,” “Vogue,” and  the “Daily Beast.

Buckley’s 15 books include “Steaming To Bamboola,” “The White House Mess.” “God Is My Broker,” “Little Green Men,” “No Way To Treat a First Lady,” “Florence of Arabia,” “Boomsday,” “Supreme Courtship,” “Losing Mum And Pup: A Memoir,” and “Thank You For Smoking,” which became a 2005 film.

What is this book about?

Buckley is fascinated by political machinations and the people who do the machinating (OK, I just made up that word.) He also is fond of that normally despised creature, the lobbyist, and as in “Thank You For Smoking,” his new book’s anti-hero makes his living that way, but this time for an aerospace giant, not the tobacco industry.

To help the company get funding for a secret weapon, “Bird” McIntyre gets the unpleasant job of stirring up American resentment of the Chinese government, as if he didn’t have enough agita in his personal life: an equestrian wife, an Alzheimer’s-stricken mom and a Civil War re-enactor brother, all of whom live at his country estate, which he has named “Upkeep.” (He’s also got a D.C. condo he dubbed the “Military Industrial Duplex.”) As the story gallops along, Bird gets involved with an Ann Coulter-like neocon named Angel and a complicated plan to trigger U.S.-Chinese trauma by threatening the life of the Dalai Lama. Sounds wacky? Sure, but Buckley makes it eerily and disturbingly plausible, and also hilarious.

Why you’ll like it:

Your political leanings aside, chances are this book, like all of Buckley’s novels, will have you laughing out loud. He happily points out the foibles and follies of both sides of the political divide, and as with all good satire, his comedy teaches you plenty about the serious subjects he is skewering.

And it’s not just what he says, it’s how he says it. Here, for example, is Bird on the Dalai Lama:

“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? Zzzzzz. Taiwan? Wasn’t that some novel by James Clavell? Zzzzzz. 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 that 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 the mandalas and the peace and harmony and the reincarnation and nirvana. All that. We can’t get enough of him. If the American public were told that those rotten Commie swines 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?”

What others are saying:

“The title refers to the supposed culinary propensities of the Chinese, but as this novel makes clear, it’s said with more than a twist of irony….A lively and politically spirited read,” says Kirkus Reviews.

“Writing comic fiction about world events demands wit and inside knowledge about Washington. It also requires an ability to see the light side of serious issues like China’s treatment of Tibet, the death of beloved spiritual leaders and America’s financial dependency on China. These are not funny topics, but Christopher Buckley’s new novel about them, “They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?,” is hilarious,” says USA Today.

“With rising concern about China’s military buildup and its economic rivalry with the U.S., perhaps the best course of action is to milk the situation for some laughs. And there are laughs aplenty in Christopher Buckley’s sendup…. Creators of great works of satire, such as Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, don’t appear often, but Buckley follows in the footsteps of fellow satirist Tom Wolfe in giving readers a delightful perspective on some of the leading issues and social mores of our times,” says the Associated Press.

“Buckley is at his searing best…. Buckley knows Washington. He knows satire. He knows Dr. Strangelove and how to ratchet up absurdities. As our antiheroes get closer and the stakes climb, the book mixes outrageousness and plausibility like a dirty martini….. this is a funny book, and there’s nothing here to displease the devoted Buckley fan. And perhaps it speaks to his skill with satire that as the world teeters toward war, we find ourselves missing his lobbyist,” says The Washington Post.

Says The Wall Street Journal: “They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?” cuts deftly between politburo meetings in China and backroom deals in Washington while skewering D.C. pretensions…. Unlike so many other satirists of Beltway culture, Buckley is both deeply informed and deeply funny.”

When is it available?

They’ve got it, don’t they, in the New Books section of the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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