Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Taft 2012

Taft 2012
© 2012 Jason Heller
246 pages

In another world, William Howard Taft vanished from history after his presidential term. Rather than going on to become a Supreme Court Justice, he simply -- disappeared. He became the world's most famous missing man, at least until 99 years, whereupon he sprang up from the muddy  ground of the White House lawn, interrupting a press conference given by President Obama before being dutifully shot down by the Secret Service. Fortunately, when you weigh close to 400 pounds, you carry your own kind of bullet-slowing protection. Thus begins Taft 2012, a lightening-quick work of political satire which sees a stodgy lawyer from another era become an objection of obsession to a nation distressed by its disunity and eager to believe in anyone who can rise above the fray. Taft's contempt for partisan or dirty politics makes him a man of the hour, a man whose broad shoulders bear the weight of a nation's hopes and fears -- from liberals who want someone who will really take it to Big Business, to conservatives who want someone who knows how to balance a budget. Taft 2012 combines the easy entertainment of temporal displacement (see Taft stare at biracial couples in astonishment, scarf down a Twinkie, be seduced by Wii Golf, complain about modern music, etc) with more serious cultural observations (television is alienating) and a political campaign centered on food and education. The author mixes a conventional narrative with excerpts from the world he's created -- news articles and twitter conversations about Taft, press releases from the Draft Taft element of the Taft Party -- and the like. There are also pieces from an in-universe history of the Taft presidency, which draw allusions from history to the actions in the story. Within a matter of months, the Rip Van Winkle-like Taft goes from a national curiosity to a serious write-in candidate for the presidency. This is aided by the fact that a great-granddaughter of his, one Ms. Rachel Taft, is a popular independent legislator in her own right -- but there's more sinister workings afoot, and Taft truly comes into his own by novel's end rather than being the man everyone pins their hopes on. This is fast, funny, and sometimes pointed. Most Americans will enjoy it

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