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No Way to Treat a First Lady: A Novel
by Christopher Buckley
Christopher Buckley is not so much a novelist as a free-ranging satirist
looking for targets. In Thank You for Smoking it was big tobacco and
earnest reformers; in God Is My Broker it was business and religion; and
in No Way to Treat a First Lady, its the entire legal profession, not to
mention the Washington establishment. The novel opens with the
President of the United States returning to the conjugal bed after an illicit
Lincoln Bedroom romp with the Streisandesque Babette Van Anka. His
wife, the long-suffering Beth McMann, promptly clocks him with a Paul
Revere spittoon. Several hours later he dies. Lady Bethmac, as the First
Lady is immediately dubbed by the media, is put on trial, and the resulting
media circus gives Buckley lots of opportunity for nicely observed
skewerings of legal culture. Judge Dutch creaked forward in his chair. This
is the source of the aura of judges: they have bigger chairs than anyone
else. That and the fact that they can sentence people to sit in electrified
ones. Its all about chairs. He gets in some neat neologisms--a lawyer
performs a credibilobotomy on a witness--and sends up the pretensions of
law TV: at a roundtable discussion, the guest from Harvard Law is invited
to provide gravitas and to shift uneasily in his seat when the other guests
said something provocative. Buckleys Trial of the Millennium is so far-
fetched that it seems entirely possible. --Claire Dederer
Personal Review: No Way to Treat a First Lady: A Novel by
What can you say about a book that includes both O.J. Simpson and J.J.
Bronco? Or a Lady BethMac set upon by Agent Woody Birnam? Or a
Hollywood activist who doesn't know the difference between the West
Bank and an ATM?
And hey, the Steuben ashtray makes a second appearance in Mr.
Though the broad outline of this book is the media frenzy surrounding the
murder trial of a First Lady accused of murdering her husband, this book
takes massive swipes at America's September 10 celebrity culture.
Hysterically funny stuff.
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