Just in time for Election Year, a wickedly funny account of the aimless lives of Beltway losers caught up in the events leading up to the 1988 Dukakis-Bush slugfest.
Charlie Dingleman, who still dreams of his six years as a Pennsylvania Congressman, has been put out to pasture at Thingeld, Pine & Sconce. His second wife, Eve DeFole, is a law student obviously on her way up and out. His brainy, prickly junior associate at TP&S, Judith Grust, seems headed in the same direction. And suddenly so does Charlie, his name nosed about for a White House job—until he allows himself an unfortunate glance and an ill-advised jest at a lunch with Judith, who promptly sets out to bury him deep. It won’t do Charlie any good to consult the image consultants at the Big Tooth PR firm, because they’re just as feckless as he is. Account executive Candy Romulade dithers over her “action plan” for Charlie while Rome burns, and her friend Teresa Maracopulous is too completely trapped in a dead-end assistant’s job and a dead-end marriage to a husband who actually loves her to bestir herself to any useful task. Meanwhile, exiled liberal Hank Morriday, Judith’s sometime lover, struggles with his book on welfare reform while he enviously eyes his opposite number, a rising star in the Dukakis campaign. What brings this ship of fools to unforgettable life is Frank’s heartlessly deadpan way of deflating their most cherished desires, from their petty scrabbling for 15 minutes of fame to their hilariously untitillating couplings (as when Judith reflects tolerantly of an unappealing suitor that “she expended fewer calories on him than she would merely climbing onto her exercise machine”).
Though his tale runs out of steam as completely as the Dukakis campaign toward the end, the delight Frank (The Columnist, 2001) takes in skewering his crafty nincompoops is infectious, evergreen.