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The literature of the absurd is not limited to the theatre or hole-in-the-wall publishing; right here we have a spoof of social engineering, statistical sand castles and the behemoth of bureaucracy as way-out as anything in Beckett or Burroughs. Only it reads quite differently, the characteristic tone being that of a chairman of the board solemnly spewing forth one outrageous ""fact"" or ""finding"" after another while a collection of yes men like drugged dolls nod adoringly back and forth. It is thoroughly whacky, wonderful and so subtly and satirically successful as to be almost subversive. (God knows how many will take it as gospel.) Presented as a report on the psychometric experiments of that ""towering scientific figure"" Dr. McLandress- whom of course we've all heard of- it offers various computations and classifications all relating to public figures, places and programs. In the measurement designed to determine a sort of selfless self-recognition, i.e. the length of time in which one's thoughts do not linger over one's self, Elizabeth Taylor and Khrushchev wind off at 3 minutes, Richard Nixon at 3 seconds. There's also the Fully Automated Foreign Policy which disintegrates both the State Department and its Secretary, manufactures a ""built-in source of continuity"" based on the potato syllogism, and turns up such true-to-life conversations as: ""Do you really think this machine can handle every situation- everything?"" ""I think so, Mr. President. You remember that home economist in Saigon last week. Caught doing the Twist in her shower?"" Well it gets gamier and more grotesque, like vaudeville in a drawing room; it'll be a cause celebre. Note: Is the pseudonymous author N. Parkinson, or is it Gore Vidal mimicking him?

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1963
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin