“They Eat Puppies Don’t They?”; Christopher Buckley; Twelve, Hachette Book Group, 2012; 334 pages
Only Christopher Buckley could create an organization calling itself the Institute for Continuing Conflict and not make it seem like some throwaway one-liner suitable for the 140-characters or less social media crowd.
No Buckley, the author of 14 books, including some of the finest, most creative and gut-busting American satire written in recent times, always has larger issues at hand and no shortage of ready targets. Government, politics, the media and culture are unwitting accomplices for Buckley who uses those devices with a deft comedic hand to take down any number of society’s cornerstone institutions or beliefs. Indeed, every word Buckley writes seems to move toward two larger goals: Provoking laughter and no small amount of thinking.
It’s a formula Buckley used to carve up lobbyists, media shills, special interest groups, medicine and tobacco companies in the 1994 novel that gained him widespread public attention, “Thank you for Smoking.” Since then, the former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush and the son of the late conservative commentator, writer and icon William F. Buckley has taken on everything from the State Department to UFOs.
His latest is the prov0catively titled “They Eat Puppies Don’t They?”. It follows in the grand tradition of previous Buckley satires but most especially “Thank you for Smoking.” Once more Buckley takes aim at soulless lobbyists and the corporations or organizations that keep them in business. Along the way, though, the scattershots ricochet through the military industrial complex, Congress, TV pundits, equestrians, the Dalai Lama, China, communism, foreign policy, marital infidelity, spies, presidential advisers and Civil War re-enactors.
It’s an interesting and rich stew that is perhaps in a larger sense is also a lampoon of lifestyles from northern Virginia to southern Maryland.
“They Eat Puppies Don’t They?” is centered upon the world of Walter “Bird” McIntyre, a public relations adviser and lobbyist who specializes in helping defense contractors navigate through the congressional political minefield. But the Alabama-based company now paying his salary wants McIntyre to take on a more secretive and larger assignment — one that will ensure Washington politicians won’t soon decide to trim the defense budget.
McIntyre’s new duties put him in the path of a curvy conservative pundit and war-monger who makes a living appearing on cable news shows like “Hardball.” Together they scheme to keep America’s combat fires burning by a not-so-subtle campaign to resurrect public sentiment against an old national enemy.
Meanwhile McIntyre, perhaps the worst unpublished spy novelist of all time — encounters trouble at home from his high society spouse, who has her heart set on being a member of a U.S. equestrian team, no matter the cost.
Buckley spins an engaging and rollicking tale that features petty infighting among Chinese leaders, bumbling back-channel negotiating; a sinister plot to sway public opinion on two continents and presidents in two nations who are perhaps more on the ball than their critics would like to believe.
Or are they?
That is indeed the genius in Buckley’s satire. He writes of a world seemingly run amok but in which all things seem to work out in the end — for the moment anyway.