Realists will scoff at George Bush, Dark Prince of Love
. Absurdists, however, may rejoice. To put it politely, the narrator of Lydia Millet's satire is fat, felonious, trailer-park trash who's out to replace Barbara Bush in the president's affections. The narrator, however, would describe herself differently--for despite her unfortunate circumstances, Rosemary could give Lucian lessons in rhetoric and trade bons mots with Oscar Wilde. From the start, she's convinced that she and Mr. Bush are soul mates: "I found I was beginning to look forward to G.B.'s sound bites and public appearances with the childish curiosity and appetite I had formerly reserved for Seabreezes, monster-truck rallies, and all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets." As she does her best to worm her way into the chief executive's affections while trying to avoid further incarceration, Rosemary moves in with the aged Russell, who comes complete with a voice box, dentures, a serious cocaine habit, and the most revolting friends in the history of humanity. Nonetheless, the man is
a Bush fan, and our heroine prefers his home as a base of operations. Though Rosemary found G.B.'s inaugural performance a turn-on, it isn't until the Gulf War heats up that she really falls in love:
I'd started to tape CNN during the day, while my role as a stalwart blue-collar American worker kept me away from my duties to G.B. At night I would fast-forward through the tape during commercials in the live coverage, until I caught sight of him. And then I'd sit there dreamily, a deer in the headlights of his transformation. G.B. was a man of action, a G.I. Joe fresh off the assembly line with special-edition gray hair. Only like those Russian dolls, there was a different G.B. inside the warlike Commander in Chief: a gangly prepubescent. The tension between them transfixed me.
Millet clearly intends the tension between her narrator's vision and reality to transfix us--and it can over a short space of time. If you're in the right mood, you'll find it hard to resist Rosemary's take on things, even as you wonder how someone with such a fine turn of phrase can have so little self-knowledge. But it's all part of her dubious charm: only this behemoth could transpose 10 days in an asylum into "an informal, ad hoc study of the mental-health industry, which had served to confirm my original hypothesis on the subject." Even those who tire of the novel's conceit will want to skip ahead to Rosemary's one encounter with the great man. Suffice it to say that things don't go at all as planned. --Kerry Fried
From Publishers Weekly
The 41st president's gaffes are milked for all they're worth in Millet's (Omnivores) coy political satire. In four sections, one per presidential year, Rosemary--the brainy, obese ex-con whose memoirs these purport to be--models her life after the former president's. For example, when President Bush takes his revenge on turncoat U.S. client/dictator Manuel Noriega, Rosemary ruins the life of a cop, her enemy, by revealing his infidelities to his wife. Though she dreams of First Lady "B.B."'s fall from grace and her own subsequent romance with "G.B.," Rosemary must settle for less in the short term, so she moves in with Russki, a septuagenarian Korean war vet. When she isn't wrangling with Russki, she spends most of her time in her "war room" talking to "G.B." on TV, contemplating a G.B. crucifix she has fashioned--"GHWB" replacing "INRI"--and firing off memos to the Casa Blanca. One such missive results in her detention by the FBI. When Rosemary inherits Russki's wealth by means of a falsified will, she moves to Washington and becomes a big-ticket Republican contributor in a vain attempt to get close to G.B. Rosemary's doxological rants thinly conceal Millet's views about what she sees as Bush's opportunism and narrow class loyalties, sometimes overpowering the narrative. Millet has fun juxtaposing crudities with pompous politicking: in one wild sequence, Rosemary eats a Hungry Man and plays "Dos Perros" with an illegal immigrant lover while Bush and Thatcher confer on Iraq. Rosemary later arranges the lover's deportation to Mexico, quoting G.B.: "This will not stand." Each short chapter is prefaced by one of President's Bush's memorably maladroit remarks. Didacticism aside, there are some real belly laughs in this odd story-so long as the reader's political sympathies match Millet's. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.