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No Way to Treat a First Lady
ISBN 0375507345 / 9780375507342 / 0-375-50734-5
Publisher Random House
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Christopher Buckley is not so much a novelist as a free-ranging satirist looking for targets. In Thank You for Smoking it was big tobacco and earnest reformers; in God Is My Broker it was business and religion; and in No Way to Treat a First Lady, it's the entire legal profession, not to mention the Washington establishment. The novel opens with the President of the United States returning to the conjugal bed after an illicit Lincoln Bedroom romp with the Streisandesque Babette Van Anka. His wife, the long-suffering Beth McMann, promptly clocks him with a Paul Revere spittoon. Several hours later he dies. "Lady Bethmac," as the First Lady is immediately dubbed by the media, is put on trial, and the resulting media circus gives Buckley lots of opportunity for nicely observed skewerings of legal culture. "Judge Dutch creaked forward in his chair. This is the source of the aura of judges: they have bigger chairs than anyone else. That and the fact that they can sentence people to sit in electrified ones. It's all about chairs." He gets in some neat neologisms--a lawyer performs a "credibilobotomy" on a witness--and sends up the pretensions of law TV: at a roundtable discussion, the guest from Harvard Law is invited "to provide gravitas and to shift uneasily in his seat when the other guests said something provocative." Buckley's Trial of the Millennium is so far-fetched that it seems entirely possible. --Claire Dederer [via]