FLUKE by Martin Blinder


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Psychiatrist and law professor Blinder debuts with the tale of Warren Harding’s last decade or so—often in the voice of Nan Britton, a young, devoted, beloved mistress. Handsome, generous, empty-headed, and well-liked, Harding is a 46-year-old newspaper publisher and city politician in Marion, Ohio, when local 15-year-old Nan Britton first falls in love with him and worships him from afar. The year is 1912, and it isn—t long before the modest Harding is reluctantly drawn into a successful race for the Senate, urged on by the clique of —friends— who will later (as in the Tea Pot Dome scandal) taint his administration hopelessly with corruption. The adoring Nan follows him to Washington, where he takes her under his wing, finds her an apartment, watches out for her: only with a rather touching gradualness (the First Lady, suffering eternally from unspecified maladies, is ambitious but profoundly sexless) do the two become lovers. Once Harding is in the White House (having been nominated by a —fluke— during a deadlocked Republican convention) and finds how lonely life is, he turns even more passionately to Nan, who in turn supports him all she can as he tries to grow with the job, educating himself ruthlessly and evolving, surprise of surprises, into more and more of a liberal. His self- serving advisors and cabinet, however, eat away from within at all he tries to accomplish, and the rigor and disappointment of the presidency exacerbate the heart disease (first noticed during lovemaking with the pregnant-to-be Nan) that will bring his death during a nation-wide tour to rally support—with wild success—for his causes, among them world peace and racial equality. Blinder is no towering lyricist, but he’s a spellbinding novel-writer whose timing, it must be said in this National Moment of Monica, is remarkable—as are his efforts to catch every bit of period speech and detail that happens by. An easy, pleasurable debut crying out movie, movie, movie.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57962-017-5
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998