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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Christopher Buckley's novel has a modest proposal to make.
By COLETTE BANCROFT
Published April 15, 2007
Cassandra Devine, a 29-year-old Washington flack and popular political blogger, is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore.
What she's mad about is baby boomers, especially her jerk of a dad, a software designer who blew her college fund on a failed dot-com startup. In the very near future of Christopher Buckley's novel Boomsday, the no-we're-the-greatest-just-ask-us generation is one big resource hog as it sails into retirement, and Cass and her peers can look forward to a lifetime of paying the bills.
On her blog, Cass proposes a simple solution she dubs Voluntary Transitioning: As boomers turn 70, give them a break on the estate tax - as long as they agree to kill themselves. If they commit suicide at 65, they get lovely parting gifts, including a two-week "farewell honeymoon."
Cass isn't serious, she just wants to trigger a conversation. To make that clear, Buckley brings up Jonathan Swift's masterful A Modest Proposal. But before long, Cass' young fans are bursting into gated retirement communities and pillaging the golf courses.
It's a great satirical premise, but Buckley has trouble focusing on it because he's sniping at so many other targets. Set, like Buckley's bestselling Thank You for Smoking, in Washington, Boomsday teems with dastardly types, from a slick senator who makes a stupid mistake that costs him a leg and then spins it into a political plus, to a fabulously rich pro-life evangelical preacher who is widely rumored to have murdered his mother, not to mention a hapless president whose administration has jailed so many reporters that they have their own prison gang, Pulitzer Nation.
The folks Buckley makes sport of here richly deserve it. But he seems so bent on tagging them all that the book's narrative, which segues into a mad presidential campaign, loses its way, and most of those who deserve comeuppance avoid it. Buckley's wit is quick, but it's not Swift.