The title of Christopher Buckley’s newest novel, Boomsday, refers to a time in America’s future when the majority of Baby Boomers begin retiring and the rest of us will be forced pay substantially higher taxes…or allow the Social Security system to go bust, leaving grandma to support her own-damn-self
Boomsday is Buckley’s follow-up to Florence of Arabia (Believe it or not, his most popular book Thank You For Smoking, made even more famous by the 2006 movie, was actually written in 1994. I know. I was surprised too.)
Boomsday tells the tale of a 29-year-old Gen W’er (Gen W: Generation Whatever. Ha!) whose deadbeat Dad blew her college money on his failing business and, through a series of military misadventures, finds herself moonlighting as a political blogger while working an icky-sticky day job in PR. After reading the book’s unwieldy opening chapters, I got a mite huffy. The main character, the prophetically named Cassandra Devine, is initially conveyed in obsessive detail as just another deposit into Buckley’s spank bank. I’ve noticed that male authors seem to spend an inordinate amount of time creating the perfect, imaginary female. (I’m looking at you, Philip Roth!) It’s a classic double standard: Female authors who describe the rippling muscles and sex appeal of a studly main character are often dismissed to the $2 bargain bin, while successful male novelists unwaveringly attempt to force feed the idea that beauty, brains and blondeness go together like peas, carrots and some other Forrest Gump-sanctioned vegetable. However, the three b’s of spankdom don’t typically exist in nature and it’s difficult, as a reader, to latch onto a premise when Barbie is written as a political mastermind who just can’t get a date. It isn’t cute, it isn’t plausible and it is annoying.
By the third or fourth chapter, however, the hottie contrivance becomes secondary to the politics of the story. Boomsday may begin like a drunken liberal luau but it eventually settles into an interesting and multi-faceted satirical view of the morally ambiguous world of weaselly PR wankers, the abysmal failure and steady demise of social security, and how the impending retirement of 75,000 baby boomers could decimate the world economy.
On with the review! After getting her political knickers into a rather motivational twist, Cass (who I empathize with simply because she understands that though Taurine is the devil, she’s still Satan’s bitch) chugs obnoxious amounts of Red Bull, hunkers down with her MacBook Pro and comes up with “Transitioning.” Transitioning, in essence, guarantees lifetime tax exemption to retirement age Boomers on the condition that they cash in their own chips by age 60. That’s right, if these grey hairs make dead sure they join the ranks of the living-impaired by a certain age, they become financially home free as far as Uncle Sam is concerned. Cass has even “done the numbers” to guarantee Transitioning’s success. Unfortunately, we aren’t privy to them. I have a very tentative grasp of fiscal responsibility and math in general, but I would be more liable to jump on the believing bandwagon if Buckley had at least faked a graph or two. In fact, once B establishes the main movers, namely Cass and her senator beau, he seems to lose interest in them and focus instead on the mightily entertaining secondary characters. These fictional gems include a snarky public relater; a virginal, pro-life Southerner who may or may not have murdered his own mother; a swishy Italian Monsignor; and a millionaire cyber-savant and his satisfyingly bone-headed family. Oddly enough, the mid-show shift works.
Salted liberally with quotable quotes and tongue-in-cheek commentary, Boomsday is a surly success that cuts right to the skeptical heart of Generation W … and makes us giggle.
Constance Howes is a book critic for Pajiba and a graphic designer living in Philadelphia. Her hobbies include making out and messing shit up. In short, she’s a firecracker. She blogs over at I Love You in the Face.
Boomsday by Christopher Buckley / Constance Howes
Film | June 28, 2007 | Comments ()