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Monthly Archives: December 2008

All I Want For Christmas Is Technical Issues With My Blog

Yeah, the blog page looks all messed up now.  I did the really smart thing of trying to upgrade to the newer version of WordPress on Christmas Eve.  I disabled my plugins as requested, but as you can tell, things didn’t come out quite right.  I’d love to figure out how to revert to my backup version for now, but my web hosting company is closed for Christmas.  I don’t want to pester my blog tech guru on Christmas either.  In any case, I hope to have this issue resolved by the new year, if not before.

In the meantime, sit tight, party hard, and have yourself a rich and meaningful ChanuChristmaKwanzAuldLangSynica.

Thoughts on “Supreme Courtship” by Christopher Buckley

Supreme Courtship

Political satire is a small genre in the book world: so small, in fact, that when most readers are asked to identify a modern practitioner of this dark art, they are hard pressed to come up with a single name, save that of today’s subject: Christopher Buckley.  Mr. Buckley is the author of such works as No Way To Treat A First Lady, Florence Of Arabia, and Thank You For Smoking, and he made headlines this fall for his endorsement of Barack Obama for president (a move that led to his resignation from his columnist post at the National Review).

His latest novel, Supreme Courtship, is an enjoyable read. It will not rock your world, lead you to new heights of ecstasy, or force you to reexamine your view of modern American democracy. To be fair, I don’t think its intentions are so lofty. It will, however, take you on a pleasant journey through a wacky-yet-familiar version of our country, one in which a folksy TV judge becomes the newest Supreme Court Justice and a renegade Congress changes the Constitution to prevent the re-election of an unpopular President.

Without a doubt, the most rewarding element of Supreme Courtship is the character of Pepper Cartwright, the straight-talkin’ wise-crackin’ TV judge who is nominated to a post well beyond her expertise. Released on the heels of Sarah “You Betcha” Palin’s VP nomination, the character of Pepper seems fresh and prescient.

In interviews and in person, Mr. Buckley comes across as a witty jovial chap, and, indeed, this is a witty jovial book. While I confess I only laughed out loud a few times, I did enjoy myself for the entire ride.  The book does not thrill, but it is good fun, something we all need at this time of year.  Is it hard to put down?  Not exactly.  But Supreme Courtship is very pleasant to pick up, and it is a political novel that can be enjoyed by readers on both sides of the aisle.

When I sang “Mazal Tov” to David Gregory

Yes, I still consider myself an East-Coaster at heart, but every now and then, there are times when I have to say, “it’s pretty cool to live in Los Angeles.”  Most often, these moments are weather-related.  Most other times, it’s a cultural/film business thing.  Friday night, it was a Jewish thing.

C and I have talked about how lucky we are to belong to the synagogue we do.  The community is amazing — smart, young, and progressive — and the rabbi is a real superstar: a fiercely intelligent young woman with a passion for social justice.  Our congregation does Friday night services on the first and third Fridays of each month, and we try to go whenever we can.  On the second Friday of the month, we venture to a larger synagogue for a once-a-month mega-service that is highly musical and presided over by yet another amazing rabbi.  We love this second rabbi because his sermons have the three qualities every religious leader should want to emulate: insightful, funny, and brief.  Both he and our rabbi are widely considered two of the top rabbis in the country, and C and I get to hear them speak every month.  How lucky are we?

And being in Los Angeles, you never know who is going to show up at shul.  On Friday night, Pastor Rick Warren was in the audience.  So was David Gregory.  Fresh from a taping of the Tonight Show, Mr. Gregory looked happy, tired, and very tall.  C and I (along with about 1000 other Jews) sang Mazal Tov to him, to congratulate him on his upcoming debut as the new host of Meet the Press.  Pretty cool, no?

As for MTP, I’m only about 20 minutes through this week’s episode on my TiVo, so it’s way too early for me to pass judgement on Mr. Gregory’s performance.  But I wouldn’t do that anyway — at least not yet.  I don’t think it’s fair to judge a host on his or her first show.  Let’s see how he’s doing in six months, when he’s had a chance to settle into things.  Until then, I wish him luck.

Thoughts on “The Book of Lies,” (or: How Brad Meltzer kept the Folmans up past their bedtimes)

Book of Lies

Brad Meltzer is the man.  I say this not only because he gave me an amazing blurb for my book.  I say it not only because he’s a terribly nice guy in person.  I’m saying it because the he has skillz (yes, the kind with a “z”).  Brad Meltzer knows how to tell a good story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard the pitch for The Book of Lies. It was something about how the Biblical murder of Abel was connected to the 1932 murder of Mitchell Siegel, father of the boy who would grow up to create the comic book hero Superman.  Weird premise.  Was thriller writer Meltzer about to take an avant garde detour with this one?  Was this going to be The Hours for comic book geeks?  A misguided time travelling tapestry of nerdiness and religious revisionism?  I cracked open my limited edition autographed Book Expo galley with a mixture of fear and excitement.

And then, I never closed it.

My fears were quickly allayed once I realized the book was set in present day.  Yes there was the background religious/historical mystery about Cain and Abel, Mitchell Siegel, and undiscovered murder weapons.  But at its heart, Book of Lies is really just a MacGuffin story — and a darn good one at that.  What is a MacGuffin, you ask?  “MacGuffin” is a term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock to describe a mysterious thing that everybody wants.  It is the Maltese Falcon, the secret plans, the magical ring, the stolen breifcase, the Holy Grail, or, for that matter, the thing Indiana Jones tries to steal from the bad guys in every movie.  It doesn’t really matter what the MacGuffin is, so much as it matters that everyone wants it, that heroes and villains will kill each other to get it.  The MacGuffin is one of the oldest and most reliable plot devices around (to read more about MacGuffins, click here).

In Meltzer’s novel, the eponymous Book of Lies is the MacGuffin.  Does it really matter what the Book of Lies is?  Not really.  But it’s a lot of fun to see who’s going to chase it down first.  The guy we’re rooting for is protagonist Cal Harper, a down-on-his-luck former customs agent.  Cal gets swept up in the action when his long-lost father is shot with a gun that traces back to Mitchell Siegel’s 1932 murder.  There are some father/son issues in the book, some “who do you trust” drama, some mysterious bad guys, a little philosophizing, and some interesting Superman stuff.  I’ll let you decide whether all these elements work for you or not.  For me, they did — at least most of the time.  But what kept me turning pages was the chase.

Simply put: the book is hard to put down.  My wife and I both lost a fair amount of sleep reading it.  You will too.  It may remind you of The DaVinci Code, another MacGuffin story, in terms of pace and structure, but it’s written with a sense of humor that DaVinci lacks.

It’s a fun read.  And addictive.  Definitely addictive.  So, check it out, folks.  And read at your own risk.