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Casually linked, mildly satiric vignettes from Washington, D.C. bureaucracy--more or less centered on young Gerald Nash, special assistant (""for Evaluation, Training, and Morale"") to the Assistant Secretary of an unnamed Department in an unnamed administration. (But the allusions definitely suggest Carter circa 1980.) Gerald, formerly with the anti-horsemeat Equine Defense Fund, now finds himself evaluating such projects as the Fungibility Task Force: after 15 years the Task Force has come up with a preliminary report, recommending a five-year Fungibility Project ($13.7 million) to establish a computerized ""fungibility index""--so that non-economic values (e.g., clean air, on-the-job contentment) can be quantified and made fungible. Meanwhile, we also follow the Gary Cooperish wanderings of naive Bob Zardovsky, an unemployed Oregon millworker who has been chosen to represent the newly formed People's Lumber Mill Co-op in Washington: Zardovsky has all the papers ready to apply for a $250,000 federal grant to reopen the mill; upon arrival, however, he's genially shanghaied by disciples of the Temple of Ray, a D.C. cult devoted to stealing any and all government documents; later, he goes out drinking with a congressman and witnesses a cartoonish, Abscam-style entrapment. Then the focus shifts for a while to Gerald's renewed affair with old flame Diana--a TV newscaster who uses pillow-talk confidences to assemble a silly expose about internal wrangles at Gerald's Department. And, in the final section, bland hero Gerald is transferred to the President's Reelection Committee--providing Epps with the opportunity to parody Carter's 1980 campaign, complete with desperate pollsters and a cocaine-snorting scandal involving campaign-manager Toad Earnshaw. Throughout, however, whether mocking bureaucrats or poking fun at the pundits on TV's Agronsky & Company, Epps (The Shad Treatment, 1977) remains a fairly tame, largely predictable satirist; some of his better gags, in fact, are the non-political one-liners that get tossed in here and there. (""I'm Okay--You're Dead: A Guide to Oreative Grief."") And, despite a few recurring plot-bits, there's no cumulative force to this meandering, intermittently amusing mixture of giddy farce, political humor, and collegiate jokiness.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin