GOD'S FAVORITE by Lawrence Wright

GOD'S FAVORITE

KIRKUS REVIEW

The final days in power of Panama's military strongman Manuel Noriega are the subject of this savvy and bleakly comic

first fiction by New Yorker reporter Wright (Twins: Their Remarkable Double Lives—and What They Tell Us About Who We

Are, 1998, etc.).

Wright's "Tony" Noriega is an appalling, fascinating, and at times even sympathetic figure. He enters the novel following

an account of the discovery of populist "revolutionary" Hugo Spandafora's headless corpse, and a brief dose of the irreverent

cynicism indulged by Archbishop Morette, "banished" to Panama City by the Vatican. Noriega, at this time, is in Geneva,

receiving extreme-measure medical treatment for "acne vulgaris." Thereafter, the story careens gracefully between illustrations

of Noriega's iron-fisted rule (specifically, as experienced first-hand by the Archbishop's idealistic and unworldly subordinate,

Father Jorge Ugarte) and often hilarious debunkings of the Great Man's relationships with puppet politicos who clamor for at least

the appearance of authority, military aides who inconveniently develop consciences, Noriega's wrathful wife Felicidad and petulant

mistress Carmen, murderous Colombian drug-lord Pablo Escobar and neighboring fellow dictator Fidel Castro; even visiting

"diplomat" Colonel Oliver North (who blithely preaches George Bush's gospel of international pragmatism). There are horrors

aplenty, and handsome, earnest Father Jorge offers the perfect contrast to the introverted, paranoid, deeply insecure General

Noriega, whose most trusted associates are the specimens that reside in his private aviary (notably, Pepe, "a neurotic sulfur-crested

cockatoo") and his personal "psychic," witch-doctor, and sex consultant, Santeria priest Gilbert Blancarte. Wright takes no

prisoners (even a well-meaning former "Presidente" imagines himself "a soldier of economic enlightenment, imposing the stern

teachings of Milton Friedman on the Third World, much as the Conquistadors had imposed bloody Christianity on the savages

of the past"), in a vigorous full-dress satiric farce that neatly skewers the self-righteous mendacity of all the Americas, ours very

much included.

The wittiest political novel we've seen in some time, and a fine beginning to what one hopes is this accomplished journalist's

second career.

Pub Date: March 9th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86810-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000




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