Thursday, April 24, 2008

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING by Christopher Buckley

The Book: Christopher Buckley, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. Random House, 1994 (first edition). Very good condition; dust jacket is slightly creased at top of spine, pages are riffled.
First read: 1994
Owned since: 1994

The movie version of this book was pretty good, though I still don't understand why they cast Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor instead of Rob Lowe.

Maybe we're too used to seeing Rob Lowe as a villain; the point of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is that Nick Naylor isn't a villain, he's just a guy whose conscience is for sale. After all, he's got a mortgage to pay.

Nick Naylor is the senior vice president for communications (i.e., head lobbyist) at the Academy for Tobacco Studies, a policy organization funded by the nation's largest tobacco firms. It's his job to defend his members on talk shows where the other guests are teenagers dying of tobacco-related cancer.

Nick's strategy for defending his employers is to defend the consumers of tobacco as a persecuted minority. It's almost uncanny to read this book now and see how closely the real life tobacco industry has followed Nick Naylor's fictional plan, which was supposed to be a satire.

But it's a fine line in Washington, and that's Buckley's point. You succeed by embracing the absurdity with a straight face, and saying -- for example -- that you are winning a race even when the numbers show it to be a mathematical impossibility.

I'm off to Los Angeles today, for the LA Times Festival of Books. Posting will be irregular between now and Tuesday. If you're in LA, come by and see me at the store's Friday night party or at our Festival signing booth (#411) on Saturday and Sunday.

1 comment:

Claire said...

See, I loved Aaron Eckhardt in the role, and Rob Lowe stole the show in his two kimonoed scenes. I wouldn't have flipped them for anything. (And I think they were wise to discard the larger conspiracy plot for the movie. It might have turned into a comic thriller disaster akin to Man of the Year.)