Some weeks back the author Christopher Buckley was at Politics and Prose talking about and signing his new book. Christopher is the son of the conservative columnist William F Buckley who passed away in February of last year. His mother had died the year before. Buckley's latest book talks about his parents and losing both of them so close together. He read exerpts from his book and, to keep himself from crying it seemed, frequently departed from the text to expound on humorous family stories. These are the kinds of the stories that everyone in the family knows and has heard a million times before, but are funnier when told to new people. His daughter, the cutie in the background, clearly knew all his stories and started smiling long before the punchline.
It was nice to hear that William F. Buckley, often credited with being key to building the conservative political culture of the 80's and early 90's, was ashamed of what had become of the Republican party in the last 10-15 years. It was nice to hear that he had made close friends with old political rivals. I enjoyed hearing that Dick Cheney asked to speak at his funeral and was turned down.
You can watch him talk about his book on Book TV at http://www.booktv.org/watch.aspx?ProgramId=FV-10165.
But that wasn't why I went. No, I went because of the book and movie "Thank You For Smoking". When his kids were still very young Buckley was making breakfast with some news show on. There was a smoking debate going on and this woman from the tobacco lobby was just denying everything and demanding to see the data. Buckley thought she was great. Not her position. Just the person who could stand there and claim that black was white, up was down, and that golf clothes were the height of fashion. So he wrote a book about that type of character.
In both the book and movie we follow Nick Naylor as he goes about his life trying to convince the country that smoking isn't a health risk and that they don't target children. He hangs out with friends from the gun and alcohol lobbies, he goes on talk shows to verbally duel with people from Health and Human Services, and tries to pay off old and sickly former spokesmen. He also gets kidnapped by people who try to kill him with nicotine patches.
There are differences between the movie and the book. In the movie he spends more time with his son so he has a way to vocalize his philosophy of life. In the book there's a story of his boss and his secretary trying to frame him so the secretary can take his job. The book ends with him doing some jail time and coming out a reformed man. The movie ends with him walking away from the tobacco lobby and starting his own firm to consult with execs from similarly suspect industries and teach them how to muddy the waters enough so people can't tell what's truth and what isn't.
I like the movie better. It gives a better view of the mind of Nick Naylor. He's like a super hero whose power is talking out of his ass. It's hilarious. The book tells a very similar story. It's only somewhat amusing, but it's still a good book.
Anyway, I got both the book and the DVD signed.