A review of They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?, by Christopher Buckley
@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Put yourself into this picture (as you might if you were reading this book and identifying with its protagonist): Your name is Walter “Bird” McIntyre. You are the leading Washington lobbyist for Groepping-Sprunt, a major arms contractor for the Pentagon. A Senate committee is meeting to consider a huge appropriation for your latest weapons system — an ocean-liner-sized drone aircraft armed with every manner of destructive weaponry known to the military-industrial complex. Testifying on the company’s behalf will not be easy. “On top of the ‘funding factor’ (Washington-speak for ‘appalling cost overruns’), Bird and Groepping-Sprunt were up against a bit of a ‘perception problem’ (Washington-speak for ‘reality’).” After embarrassing you with hours of pointed questions, does the committee approve the appropriation? No, it does not. And that, for all intents and purposes, is where this tale begins.
With Bird’s job now on the line and the company’s future in doubt because of the huge sums poured into R&D for the oversized drone, Bird’s boss forces him to raise the stakes: find a way to gin up widespread public hatred for China and thus scare Congress into springing for some other overpriced weapons system. Enter Angel Templeton, a mashup of Ann Coulter and Mata Hari; Bird’s fetching young trophy wife, an equestrienne who is bankrupting him with her passion for thoroughbred horses; Bird’s feckless younger brother, Bewks, who wanders around Bird’s house in a Confederate general’s outfit, channeling George Armstrong Custer (sic!), ready for a reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg at a moment’s notice; Rogers P. Fancock, the Boston Brahmin who is reluctantly serving as National Security Advisor; and Chris Matthews of Hardball (yes, by name). Those are the key characters on the U.S. side. A similarly comical collection of Chinese players — mostly the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party — rounds out the cast.
In between the two sides is the 14th Dalai Lama (yes, the current guy). You’ll have to read the book to find out how he gets into the story.
They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? is political satire of the highest order. I found myself laughing hysterically, sometimes for pages at a time. But, like all superior satire, this book isn’t just funny — its droll treatment of politics in Washington and Beijing is spot-on accurate. For example, “Fancock scowled at the top-secret cable from the U.S. ambassador in Beijing alerting him to the development that had been announced on CNN twenty minutes before.”
Christopher Buckley knows whereof he writes. He is the son of the late William F. Buckley, Jr. and has held a number of positions in Washington, including a job as chief speechwriter for Vice President George H. W. Bush. (I will forgive him for all that.) They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? is Buckley’s ninth satirical novel. He has also written several other books, including two travelogues and a biographal portrayal of his parents.