"Boomsday" | Baby boomers in the crosshairs
Professionally speaking, Christopher Buckley wears several jaunty hats...
Special to The Seattle Times
Christopher Buckley reads from "Boomsday," 7:30 p.m., May 1, Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle; free (206-624-6600
by Christopher Buckley
Twelve/Hachette Book Group, 318 pp., $24.99
Professionally speaking, Christopher Buckley wears several jaunty hats. He writes funny stuff for The New Yorker and other magazines. (For one collection of these pieces, he helpfully includes a fake index beginning: "Book reviewers, best people on earth, 1-314.") And Buckley writes novels of political satire that insult both the left and right with even-handed glee.
Buckley's wickedly funny new novel, "Boomsday," can stand proud with his previous works of socio-political hijinks, among them "Little Green Men," "No Way to Treat a First Lady" and "Thank You for Smoking." (The latter was made into a film nearly as scathing as the original.)
The writer comes by his interest in political matters honestly: His father is William F. Buckley. But in the new book, the 50-something Buckley performs a kind of literary cannibalism by turning on his own kind, the baby-boom generation.
Buckley is all too aware that some 77 million of us boomers are getting set to retire — and will bankrupt Social Security in the process. At the same time, he's fascinated by the world of political blogging — how it has shifted from the far margins of crankiness to actually earning some respect from politicians and spin doctors.
The reading by Christopher Buckley scheduled for May 1 at Elliot Bay Book Co. has been canceled. Please contact the bookstore for more information. 101 S. Main St., Seattle; (206-624-6600 or www.elliottbaybook.com
Combining these themes, Buckley places in the not-too-distant future a story starring the very bright 20-something Cassandra Devine. Cassandra's selfish boomer father has wasted her college fund on a failed high-tech enterprise, forcing her to skip higher education in favor of the military.
Downside: No Yale. Upside: As a soldier, Cass meets the ambitious, smart and refreshingly funny Congressman Randolph K. Jepperson. Result: Sparks fly, and the two are soon an item.
Jepperson then graduates from Congress to Senate, with an eye on unseating the current White House resident. President Peacham is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and his cynically venal administration has the country in tatters. (Where does Buckley get his material?) As the hapless president prepares to run for re-election, the best slogan his dispirited team can find is, "He's doing his best. Really."
Meanwhile, Cass forges a successful career as a PR spin doctor by day, caffeine-fueled political blogger by night. One night, rather offhandedly, she muses online about how boomers, "the Un-Greatest Generation," get away with murder. Young folks such as herself are paying high taxes to support the old folks and getting precious little in return.
The piece strikes a nerve, and Cassandra soon finds herself the poster girl for a grass-roots revolution, as mobs of angry 20-somethings attack golf courses around the country.
Then Cass takes it a step further and makes a modest proposal: Why not offer tax breaks to boomers if they'll kill themselves off early? It would, after all, mean instant solvency for Social Security.
Senator Jepperson sees that this issue of wrinklies-vs.-whippersnappers is a hot one. He, Cass and her PR-genius boss are able to whip up popular interest in the idea of early, legalized suicide, or, as it is soon renamed, Transitioning.
To help soften the blow of this idea, they drum up a number of pro-oldster initiatives. Among them: a cosmetic-surgery benefit, a Segway cost defrayal for "creaky-kneed (or just plain lazy) Boomers," a federal acid-reflux initiative, visa-requirement waivers for foreign elder-care workers and a "sure-to-be-controversial subsidy for giant flat-screen plasma TVs (for Boomers with deteriorating eyesight)."
They don't think Transitioning really has a snowball's chance of becoming law, but it's a way to make a point ... and put Jepperson in the spotlight.
To tell what happens next would be unfair. Suffice to say that, with perfect pitch, "Boomsday" hits us boomers right in the kishkas — our treasured money belts and complacent, fiscally disastrous selves.
Boomer Adam Woog's column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.