George W. Bush speaks from the mountaintop—or at least the helicopter pad—in Coe’s cutting political satire.
On his last day in office, the author’s fictional effigy of the 43rd president addresses an adoring throng of cronies, henchmen and monied interests as he waits to be choppered out into history. His farewell speech, rendered here in an inspired pastiche of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, is a celebration of heedless militarism, arrogant wealth, callow pleasure-seeking and smug entitlement, all expressed in a hilarious pseudo-scriptural mishmash of poetic aphorism and good-ole-boy swagger. Bush’s sermon revisits his administration’s triumphs from the Iraq war (“If you convene wars from your executive La-Z-boy, but your soul is really playing golf in Texas, then you set your fellow man dangling as a million leaves dangle without hope in the heart of autumn”) to corruption scandals (“Does the banyan too not give No Bid Contracts to the ants who drink its sap and guard its bark, and the monkeys who shelter upon its rungs and spread its seeds in their scat?”) to the AIG bailout (“For what is government but a credit card for the rich? And what good is a credit card that dawdles below its max?”). But Bush also discourses on matters of the heart and spirit, from marriage (“Buy her lavish diamonds…so she may pretend that she is loved to this degree before her squawking friends”) to charity (“Thus I say to you, treat the poor like nothing at all…saving your dollars for another lap dance in Dubai”) to mortality (“Keep your own personal ass safe, for your fear of death is both sensible and inborn, and your life is worth more than others.”) This is less a portrait of a real president than a scornful caricature of the Republican ruling elite, one that’s as cartoonish as the author’s amusing drawings of a puerile W frolicking in his flight harness. Coe shows us Bush in a funhouse mirror that distorts—but often reveals.
A wickedly funny send-up.