SMIRK by John Jiambalvo


A Novel
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A political satire that reimagines the first term of the Bush presidency.

A former heavy drinker turned buffoonish politician who comes from a powerful Texas family has just been appointed president. His name? Not George W. Bush, as one might assume, but Smirk, the title character of Jiambalvo’s novel, which savagely mocks the key players and deftly twists the main points of recent history. Smirk’s story is told by Bobby Bob Bob, also known as B3, Smirk’s former college roommate who has been made Special Assistant to the President for Media Relations. All the president’s men are here—including Dick Chummy and Kaiser Rover (affectionately dubbed “Shitcan”)—as are his challengers, “Democrack” Vice President Stiff and, later, Jack Kurtsey. The Twin Towers fall once again, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are waged. But the world of B3 and Smirk, though familiar, is not our own—it’s more like a liberal’s nightmarish dreamscape. Public school students are trained to use automatic rifles and corporations help draft legislation that affects them. That time mission was accomplished? Turns out it was all a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt complete with a clandestine pilot in control of the jet just off the coast of San Diego. At times wickedly clever, at other times brow-furrowingly tasteless, Jiambalvo’s book is ambitious, well-written and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. With the template essentially set for him, the author is free to lampoon without prejudice—and there is a lot from Bush’s first four years in office that are worth mocking. What’s surprising is how deftly and sensitively Jiambalvo handles the parts that still smart. In a beautifully poetic chapter that leads off the second section of the novel, B3 narrates the events of 9/11 without ever needing to mention the date. That Jiambalvo can invoke true pathos in an otherwise bawdy picaresque is one his chief accomplishments. Though the story is familiar and the characters well-known, the novel never fails to find inventive ways to skewer (and skew) the recent past.

A triumphant retelling of a troubling time.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1466285088
Page count: 478pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2012


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