They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?
© 2012 Christopher Buckley
They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? is a satirical novel about the power of the military-industrial congress, its lead character undertaking a mission to pose as a lobbyist to whip up anti-China sentiment among Americans. In the view of the defense contractors, Americans are far too complacent about the old ‘Red Menace’: they aren’t supporting measures like dandy new blow-`em-up drones, or the mysterious Taurus Program. To do this, their agent — Bird McIntire — teams up with an Ann Coulter expy, a woman with a distressing enthusiasm for war whose bellicosity is rivaled only by her contempt for those who don’t think as she does. To create excitement about China, they opt to spread the humor that the reds are trying to off the Dalai Lama. Conveniently enough, the exiled leader of Tibet is hospitalized. While Americans throw themselves into the national sport of reacting to what the television says, and demanding Immediate, Drastic Action — the chairman of China’s communist party is trying to keep two of his generals from trying to do something crazy, like invading Taiwan. Oddly, this man with a history of happily executing dissidents via firing squad is the book’s most sympathetic character.
Although Buckley’s story is comedic, the wretchedness of the characters kept the book from being truly enjoyable to me, at least until the final few chapters when their plans go off the rails. Bird spends most of the novel being dominated by either his unpleasant wife or the Ann Coulter stand-in, seeking relief by drinking whiskey all night and pounding away at a series of cheap thrillers dominated by Manly Men and buxom babes, with all the quality of a Harlequin romance or the Left Behind series. He does have a household of livelier supporting characters, though, including a brother who is a Civil War reennactor (“living history participant”) who walks around sporting a magnificent imitation of George Custer’s curly locks and mustache.
I’m left with mixed feelings after reading this: I’m almost sure I would have enjoyed it more were my mood different. The tenor of American politics recently made the awful attitude of the Coulter character a depressing reminder of the kinds of attitudes that are most prevalent today.I for one read novels in part to escape such disheartening facts, if only for a while.