July 22, 2012
The McSweeney's Book of Politics & Musicals
Edited by Christopher Monks
Vintage: 347 pp., $14.95 paper
Forget the theatrical success of "The Book of Mormon." What about "Palin! The Musical"? You can't help tapping your toes and singing along during the scene in which the former Alaska governor confronts Levi Johnston about her daughter's maternal condition:
I hunt with a shotgun,
Not a musket or pistol.
I'm holding one now,
Will you marry my Bristol?
It's not a real musical, of course, just the imaginings of New Yorker editor Ben Greenman in "The McSweeney's Book of Politics & Musicals," an offbeat collection of irreverent takes on American politics by a variety of contributors, including the Huffington Post's Gregory Beyer ("Mom's and Dad's Campaign Statements"), humorist Henry Alford ("The Recession Has Spared No One," written with comedian Ryan Haney) and writer Wendy Molyneux ("Spreading the Good Word: A Missionary's Guide").
This reviewer's favorites include Susan Schorn's hilarious channeling of Laura Ingalls Wilder in "Little Housing Crisis on the Prairie." "Caroline," says Charles Ingalls, "this is our neighbor, Mr. Edwards. I met him yesterday down at the creek. Mr. Edwards is a wildcat mortgage broker from Tennessee. He is going to finance our house for us."
Or take "Donald Rumsfeld: Love Doctor," in which Stephen Elliott applies the strange sayings of the former Secretary of Defense to the subject of romance. Try this bit of gnomic wisdom, based on Rumsfeld's famous 2002 response toIraq's alleged link with weapons of mass destruction: "In love there are things you know, and things you don't know, and things you don't know you don't know."
What prompted the creation of this book? Does that really need an answer? Comedian Wyatt Cenac offers one in his introduction, explaining that "one of the things that makes this country great is the ability to learn from our mistakes, laugh at them, publish them on the Internet, and then collect them in book form to be sold to rubes."
Well, if that happens to insult you, Cenac offers another answer that might be better: It's difficult, he says, not to produce satire about a political system "whose parties are represented by animals that tend to stink up barns and circuses."
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