Book Review: Readings

Christopher Buckley delivers some pretty spot-on satire of Beltway politics but misses the mark for humor


Supreme Courtship

by Christopher Buckley
Twelve, 304 pp., $24.99

If Christopher Buckley's new book were as tight and concise as its premise, it would be hilarious. There is no doubt that the setup is clever and promising: U.S. President Donald Vanderdamp is pissed with Congress – and, in particular, he's having issues with a single senator, Dexter Mitchell, who wishes he were president and who, as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is dead set on blocking Vanderdamp's nominees to the Supreme Court – indeed, one is booted in a very funny passage early in the book, for not sufficiently appreciating, in grade school, the genius of To Kill a Mockingbird. In return, Vanderdamp hatches a surefire plan to get his way: by nominating America's TV darling, the sassy and straight-talking Texan Pepper Cartwright, host of the nation's No. 1 reality show, the court drama Courtroom Six. She may not have experience, but she's popular!

There is no doubt that Buckley delivers some pretty spot-on satire of Washington, D.C., politics, just as he has done in other successful novels, such as Thank You for Smoking. He's certainly nailed the reality of personality politics – where image is king and a politician's personal goals and ambitions often take precedence over the work they're supposed to be doing on behalf of the people. Sen. Dexter Mitchell is a perfect example of this – and certainly one of the more fleshed-out characters in Buckley's often-banal soap-opera novel. Mitchell is narcissistic in a way that is eerily familiar – that is, if you spend any time watching C-SPAN.

But while there are parts of Buckley's new novel that are rollicking and gut-chuckle-worthy, those moments are overshadowed by characters so flat they're matzo and the overwhelming barrage of trite jokes and overused gimmicks – like Buckley's annoying habit of providing footnotes that not only distract from the flow of the narrative but too frequently seek to explain jokes that are either painfully apparent or, in the worst cases, embarrassingly hackneyed.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Supreme Court
One Court, Three Decisions
One Court, Three Decisions
SCOTUS rules on three Texas cases impacting abortion, affirmative action, and immigration

Mary Tuma, July 1, 2016

Supremes Hear Texas Death Penalty Cases
Supremes Hear Texas Death Penalty Cases
Supreme Court grapples once again with whether Texas death penalty scheme – and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' interpretation of its role in deciding death penalty cases – meets constitutional requirements

Rita Radostitz, Jan. 26, 2007

More Book Reviews
<i>Presidio</i> by Randy Kennedy
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
For his debut novel, Kennedy creates a road story that portrays the harsh West Texas terrain beautifully and fills it with sympathetic characters.

Jay Trachtenberg, Sept. 14, 2018

Hunting the Golden State Killer in <i>I'll Be Gone in the Dark</i>
Hunting the Golden State Killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark
How Michelle McNamara tracked a killer before her untimely death

Jonelle Seitz, July 20, 2018

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


Supreme Court, Supreme Courtship, Christopher Buckley

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle