My reading list for 2011 was sadly short. I've learned I cannot read fiction while writing - it's too hard to keep my own zombie world straight from someone else's fictional world. So I read bits of non-fiction here, pieces of magazine articles there, all in a nightly effort to purge the zombies from my head to get a restful night's sleep.
It's only been in the latter part of the year that I've read any fiction at all, and much of that's been in the guise of market research. World War Z, Feed...zombie books that made my head spin, sometimes, and certainly didn't help with my sleep issues.
|Taft 2012: A Novel|
By Jason Heller
Quirk Books Paperback Original
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
I follow Quirk Publishers on Facebook and Twitter because I love them. They published Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, a book which made me laugh so hard one night in bed that I woke up (and pissed off) the deep-sleeping Charles. (There's a scene in which Charlotte is eating leaves and it KILLS me, every time I think about it...) When they ran a short contest to give away copies of their upcoming Taft 2012, the debut novel of Jason Heller, I retweeted like a good little follower...and I won! I had no idea what the novel was about, but win it I did, and when I received it in the mail on a Wednesday I picked it up, dug in, and didn't put it down until I finished that Saturday.
Yep. Three days. Not even. And when you consider my day-to-day duties as mother and wife and dog-owner and writer...I don't get a lot of time to read. This wasn't reading to go to sleep; this was consciously ignoring my normal duties in order to read.
So. Suffice to say, I liked it.
Loved it, even. In fact, I'd say it's my favorite read of 2011, even though it's not officially released until January 17 of this year. I even enjoyed it more than the great Jeffrey Euginedes's gorgeous novel, The Marriage Plot.
I'm not surprised I loved it. I enjoy satire and I'm a political junkie, so Heller's combination of social and political satire engaged me on many levels. He took an absurd idea (President William Howard Taft disappeared on the day his successor, Woodrow Wilson, took the oath of office. Almost a century later, in 2011, he reappears on the White House lawn and resumes his political career, becoming a candidate for the 2012 election.) and turned it into something cool, something fun to read, something humorous and entertaining and something unfailingly smart.
Heller is clearly a man who's up on the times. His chapter on Taft's foray into (a bastardized version of) molecular gastronomy had me laughing out loud again (this time Charles was, luckily, still awake). He attacks the corruption of the modern food production industry. His pages of tweets and transcripts of political shows tap into the zeitgeist with which we live. I'm sure it's no accident the Taft Party sounds so much like the Tea Party, a party which possibly started with the right ideas, but with deep foundation of corruption.
But there's something more here. By describing the imagined inner workings of the brain of the only man who ever served this country as President and Chief Justice, Heller created a character readers will want to get behind. He created an ideal political candidate, with heart, courage, and, amazingly, brains enough to acclimate to the 21st Century after a hundred years of unexplained slumber.
Hell, I'd even vote for Heller's Taft! And he was a Republican! (Well, not over our current President...I like him. But over any and all of the current Republicans? Hell, yes, I'd choose Taft!!)
It's a funny comment on our times, that people are looking to the past to find...um...sane choices for political races today. But no matter how you plan to vote, Taft 2012 is a great book.
Trust me. Read it. You'll thank me.