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Boomsdayby Christopher Buckley
If your introduction to Christopher Buckley was the hilarious film of his novel Thank You for Smoking, you owe it to yourself to read Buckley's latest book and see how excruciatingly funny he is on the page. Like so many of his works, Boomsday chases each laugh with a small shudder, causing the reader to wonder if this actually could happen someday. Read it while it's still fiction!
Synopses & Reviews
Boomsday's heroine is Cassandra Devine, a charismatic 29-year-old blogger who incites massive political turmoil when, outraged over mounting Social Security debt, she politely suggests that Baby Boomers be given government incentives to kill themselves by age 75. Her modest proposal catches fire with millions of her outraged peers (Generation Whatever) and an ambitious Senator seeking to gain the youth vote in his presidential campaign.
With the help of Washington's greatest spin doctor, the blogger and the politician try to ride the issue of euthanasia for Boomers (they call it Transitioning) all the way to the White House, over the forceful objections of the Religious Right and, of course, Baby Boomers, who are deeply offended by demonstrations on the golf courses of their retirement resorts.
"[Signature] Reviewed by Jessica Cutler It's the end of the world as we know it, especially if bloggers are setting the national agenda. In his latest novel, Buckley imagines a not-so-distant future when America teeters on the brink of economic disaster as the baby boomers start retiring. Buckley takes on such pressing (however boring) topics as Social Security reform and fiscal solvency, as does his protagonist. And get this: she's a blogger.Buckley's heroine is 'a morally superior twenty-nine-year-old PR chick' who blogs at night about the impending Boomsday budget crisis. Of course, 'she was young, she was pretty, she was blonde, she had something to say.' She has a large, doting audience that eagerly awaits her every blog entry. And her name? Cassandra. And the name of her blog? Also Cassandra. Of course, Buckley doesn't let his allusion get by us:'She was a goddess of something,' another character struggles to remember, which gives his heroine the opportunity to educate us about the significance of her namesake.'Daughter of the king of Troy. She warned that the city would fall to the Greeks,' she explains. 'Cassandra is sort of a metaphor for catastrophe prediction. This is me. It's what I do.' So Cassandra, doing what she does, starts by calling for 'an economic Bastille Day' and her minions take to destroying golf courses in protest. Cassandra grabs headlines and magazine covers, and the president starts wringing his hands over what she might blog about next. Her follow-up: a radical but tantalizingly expedient solution to that most vexing of issues, the Social Security problem — Cassandra proposes that senior citizens kill themselves in exchange for tax breaks. Buckley, author of Thank You for Smoking, shows great imagination as he fires his pistol at the feet of his straw women and men. In 300-plus pages, though, it would be nice if he had found a way to endear us to at least one of his characters. Yes, we know that Washington is 'an asshole-rich environment,' as one puts it, but some Tom Wolfe-style self-loathing might be good for characters who use the word touch. Full disclosure: I'm a blogger of Cassandra's generation, and at times the totally over-the-top, relentlessly us-against-them scenario reminded me that I was reading a book written by someone not of the blogging generation, someone who Cassandra would want put down. Oh, the irony in these generationalist feelings. Then again, maybe that's exactly Buckley's point. (Jessica Cutler is the author of The Washingtonienne.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Does government-sanctioned suicide offer the same potential for satire as, say, the consumption of children? Possibly. One need only look to Kurt Vonnegut's story 'Welcome to the Monkey House,' with its 'Federal Ethical Suicide Parlors' staffed by Juno-esque hostesses in purple body stockings. Or the recent film 'Children of Men,' in which television commercials for a suicide drug mimic, to an unsettling... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) degree, the sunsets-and-soothing-voices style of real pharmaceutical ads. Now, Christopher Buckley ventures into a not-too-distant future to engage the subject in his new novel, 'Boomsday.' Here's the setup: One generation is pitted against another in the shadow of a Social Security crisis. Our protagonist, Cassandra Devine, is a 29-year-old public relations maven by day, angry blogger by night. Incensed by the financial burden soon to be placed on her age bracket by baby boomers approaching retirement, she proposes on her blog that boomers be encouraged to commit suicide. Cassandra insists that her proposal is not meant to be taken literally; it is merely a 'meta-issue' intended to spark discussion and a search for real solutions. But the idea is taken up by an attention-seeking senator, Randy Jepperson, and the political spinning begins. Soon Cassandra and her boss, Terry Tucker, are devising incentives for the plan (no estate tax, free Botox), an evangelical pro-life activist is grabbing the opposing position, the president is appointing a special commission to study the issue, the media is in a frenzy, and Cassandra is a hero. As a presidential election approaches, the political shenanigans escalate and the subplots multiply: There are nursing-home conspiracies, Russian prostitutes, Ivy League bribes, papal phone calls and more. Buckley orchestrates all these characters and complications with ease. He has a well-honed talent for quippy dialogue and an insider's familiarity with the way spin doctors manipulate language. It's queasily enjoyable to watch his characters concocting doublespeak to combat every turn of events. 'Voluntary Transitioning' is Cassandra's euphemism for suicide; 'Resource hogs' and 'Wrinklies' are her labels for the soon-to-retire. The opposition dubs her 'Joan of Dark.' It's all extremely entertaining, if not exactly subtle. The president, Riley Peacham, is 'haunted by the homophonic possibilities of his surname.' Jokes are repeated and repeated; symbols stand up and identify themselves. Here's Cassandra on the original Cassandra: 'Daughter of the king of Troy. She warned that the city would fall to the Greeks. They ignored her. ... Cassandra is sort of a metaphor for catastrophe prediction. This is me. It's what I do.' By the time Cassandra asks Terry, 'Did you ever read Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal"?' some readers may be crying, 'O.K., O.K., I get it.' Younger readers, meanwhile, may find themselves muttering, 'He doesn't get it.' The depiction of 20-somethings here often rings hollow, relying as it does on the most obvious signifiers: iPods, video games, skateboards and an apathetic rallying cry of 'whatever.' But Buckley isn't singling out the younger generation. He's democratic in his derision: boomers, politicians, the media, the public relations business, the Christian right and the Catholic Church get equal treatment. Yet despite the abundance of targets and the considerable display of wit, the satire here is not angry enough — not Swiftian enough — to elicit shock or provoke reflection; it's simply funny. All the drama takes place in a bubble of elitism, open only to power players — software billionaires, politicians, lobbyists, religious leaders. The general population is kept discretely offstage. Even the two groups at the center of the debate are reduced to polling statistics. There are secondhand reports of them acting en masse: 20-somethings attacking retirement-community golf courses, boomers demanding tax deductions for Segways. But no individual faces emerge. Of course, broadness is a necessary aspect of satire, but here reductiveness drains any urgency from the proceedings. There's little sense that lives, or souls, are at stake. Even Cassandra, the nominal hero, fails to elicit much sympathy. Her motivations are more self-involved than idealistic: She's peeved that her father spent her college fund and kept her from going to Yale. And she's not entirely convincing as the leader and voice of her generation. Though her blog has won her millions of followers, we never see why she's so popular; we never see any samples of her blogging to understand why her writing inspires such devotion. What's even more curious is that, aside from her blog, she seems to have no contact with other people her own age. Her mentors, her lover and all of her associates are members of the 'wrinklies' demographic. Though I was willing for the most part to sit back and enjoy the rollicking ride, one incident in particular strained my credulity to the breaking point: Cassandra advises Sen. Jepperson to use profanity in a televised debate as a way of wooing under-30 voters, and the tactic is a smashing success. If dropping an f-bomb were all it took to win over the young folks, Vice President Cheney would be a rock star by now. Judy Budnitz is the author of three books of fiction, most recently the story collection 'Nice Big American Baby.'" Reviewed by Judy Budnitz, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"A farcical romp, the novel offers a fresh take on everything from presidential politics to political correctness to religious pomposity. Add to this Buckley's bright writing, his right-on metaphors...and you'll have maybe not an answer to fiscal and religious foibles but, at the very least, a good laugh at their expense." Baltimore Sun
"It would be more fun (and more interesting) to read Buckley if he were meaner and more profound. But if you're looking for a lighter, frothier version of Tom Wolfe...Boomsday is your ticket." Los Angeles Times
"The ideal review of a Buckley novel would consist simply of a string of his witty, biting, insightful comments and dialogue." Chicago Sun-Times
"Character development and plot are not Buckley's strong suits, although there is no requirement for them in a book like this....But these are quibbles, not serious flaws. Buckley is so right on with his satire that his (venial) sins can be forgiven." Providence Journal
A charismatic 29-year-old blogger incites massive political turmoil when she politely suggests that Baby Boomers be given government incentives to kill themselves by age 75. Her modest proposal catches fire with millions of her outraged peers and an ambitious Senator.
One of America's most hilarious novelists and bestselling author of Thank You for Smoking takes on the plight of aging Baby Boomers in this Swiftian comedy about generational warfare.
About the Author
Christopher Buckley is the author of several books, many of them national bestsellers, including Thank You for Smoking, The White House Mess, God Is My Broker, Little Green Men, and No Way to Treat a First Lady, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. He has published more than fifty comic essays in the New Yorker. In 2002, he received the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence. He is the editor of ForbesLife and lives in New York and Washington, D.C.
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