Thank You for Smoking* is about cigarettes and the various nefarious institutions that propagated them during the 1990s. The impressive protagonist, Nick Naylor, is one of the main spokesmen for a tobacco lobby. He’s a great mind to peek inside because he’s good at what he does and what he does is “bad”. It’s fun to read his inner thought and outer dialogue because he’s slick, intelligent, and the master of spin. A senator from Vermont wants to slap warning labels on cigarette packs? Well, if you go down that road, you’ll have to label artery-clogging Vermont cheddar cheese as well!
The author, Christopher Buckley, uses his experience as a speechwriter in Washington to inform his smartly written satire that casts a critical eye on the junction of politics and lobbying. Aside from some of the fantastical plot points, it reads as a factual account of tobacco’s response to increased regulation. The subject matter is, of course, historical, which makes the mockery even more incisive.
I enjoyed the fast-paced, meaty middle of the book, but towards the end, the plot became over-complicated. As a result, Buckley had to cram a bunch of last-minute poorly fleshed out details in the final 50 pages to be able to address what he’d created. Then, he had to insert a four-page epilogue set in the future to sweepingly acknowledge certain plot-points that should have received more attention. I wish that he’d extended the book because I think that over time, the intricate, messy parts could have been smoothed.
Moreover, the ending is as cheesy as Vermont cheddar cheese. I don’t appreciate when all of the wrongs are unrealistically right-ed (for those of you who have seen the movie, apparently the ending is different). Don’t give me a picture-perfect happy ending if the book doesn’t warrant it. Nick Naylor can’t talk his way out of this one-- Thank You for Smoking receives 3 out of 5 camel humps.
*Buckley, Christopher. Thank You for Smoking. New York: Random House, 1994. Print.