September 25, 2010

Novel review: The Coup by Jamie Malanowski

The vice president of the United States, protagonist Godwin Pope, does as well with the ladies as any other handsome, famous, socially graceful, independently wealthy bachelor. But after becoming lieutenant to his former political rival, President Jack Mahone, he finds himself promoted to his own level of uselessness. The job takes loads of his time while demanding very little of his intelligence or energy. His boredom makes him dangerous. One day, he notices that Jack’s indiscreet womanizing habit—and the gullibility of everyone else—give him an (underhanded) fighting chance for the presidency after all. Along the way, though, he meets Newsbreak reporter Maggie Newbold, who just might be that rare individual capable of outwitting him—and is clearly another Machiavellian sexpot like himself.

Malanowski’s prose has an agreeable trait in common with that of Stephen King: the vivid characters appear against the technicolor backdrop of American mass culture. I take pride in noting that bloggers play an indispensable role in the ecology of information flow that Godwin Pope endeavors to manipulate to his own advantage. The blogger’s art is young; the novelist’s art is old. But even as it flatters practitioners of the younger medium, The Coup reminds me that the novel is not due for retirement any time soon

Bell has good taste in cheesecake. The “Grapevine” section in the back of the June Playboy rightly tips its hat to the sweet, sexy images on his site. But his ethics and politics are sheer demagoguery. As with most people who brag about how moral they are, his passionate intensity casts a shadow of hatred. For him, “those who belittle or outright attack female beauty mean to destroy beauty and all human values [emphasis in the original].” Worse yet, his insistence on the immaculate goodness of looking at naked women can upset the delicate ecological balance between respectability and naughtiness that makes Playboy so much fun