Cannonball Read V: Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
I came to know of Christopher Buckley last summer, when he was making the press rounds for They Eat Puppies, Don't They? After listening to an interview, I knew I had to start reading him (full disclosure: he had me at the word 'punditariat').
Supreme Courtship is the story of Donald P. Vanderdamp: President of the United States, bowling aficionado, and ruthless killer of so many bills that the legislature calls him 'Don Veto'. It's also the story of Pepper Cartwright: Texan, redhead (with all the stereotypical fiery temperament that comes with it), daughter of the famous televangelist, Reverend Roscoe, and presiding Judge on the hit television show, Courtroom Six. I'll bet you can see where this is going.
Supreme Court Associate Justice J. Mortimer Brinnin has finally agreed to resign his position on the Court after years of declining cognitive skills and recent hallucinations. (Seeing eels in the toilet and the ghost of Oliver Wendell Holmes may well be a perfectly normal response to decades of legal minutiae, and would likely make deliberations considerably more entertaining. Nevertheless, it's unseemly for a Supreme Court Justice to walk around with aluminum foil over his ears.).
The President is well aware that Dexter Mitchell (Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and general blowhard) wants to be nominated to the Court (which is not going to happen), and so will go to great lengths to discredit any nominee Vanderdamp submits. After Mitchell's committee effectively ruins the careers of two nominees (in what one adviser called a 'reprise of the Salem witch trials'), the President decides that it's his turn to have some fun. President Vanderdamp's idea of fun in this scenario is to nominate a candidate so beloved by the populace that the Judiciary Committee can't help but approve her nomination, but so outlandish that Dexter Mitchell will likely blow a gasket from holding back his not-so-righteous indignation.
And that's where Pepper Cartwright enters the picture.
The remainder (majority, actually) of the book is devoted to the confirmation hearings and aftermath of same. Buckley keeps the story moving at a rapid pace, and there are laugh-out-loud moments on nearly every page. Buckley has a particular talent for dialogue; he would have fit in nicely as a screenwriter during the Cary Grant / Katherine Hepburn era.
Supreme Courtship is a satire, but it's also a classic farce. If it were made into an animated film, Pepper Cartwright would be Jessica Rabbit's doppelganger, albeit in tight jeans and cowboy boots. Everything about this book is extreme to the point of ludicrousness, and that's precisely what I love best about it. Supreme Courtship points out the mess the US political system has become; in the hands of a less capable satirist, shedding this much light on a broken system would be utterly depressing. Buckley makes the story so outrageous that all we can do is laugh: the depression comes after the fact, when the reader realizes just how much truth was buried in the humor.
Even if you aren't particularly interested in politics, you'll enjoy Supreme Courtship. It has all the fun of any lighthearted beach book, but tackles a serious theme while doing it. I highly recommend it.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)