Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Boomsday. Or Why I Have a Crush On Christopher Buckley

I'm halfway through Christopher Buckley's latest book, Boomsday. It's the funny story of a woman named Cassandra and her movement to solve the US's mounting financial insolvency driven by the social security crisis and an ongoing 6-front war. At the time of the book's writing in the future, there are only two people to pay for each social security recipient, down from the high of about 30 in the 1970's and 1980's, thereby forcing America's young people to pay high taxes to subsidize retired-but-wealthy Baby Boomers who are driving the crisis by collecting their checks while golfing and drinking gin-and-tonics in their upper-middle class communities.

Cassandra's at-first joking, then serious, solution is to pay Baby Boomers to commit suicide ("voluntary transitioning") when they hit 65, with special additional financial incentives for those who'll commit to doing it at 55, on the OMB-approved theory that limiting social security payments would bring the US back into the financial black. Cassandra's life is the vehicle by which the story is told, primarily through her work with her partner in a PR agency and a wealthy, empty-suit Senator.

Buckley's rapier wit and spectacular command of the language, previously evidenced in Little Green Men, Thank You For Smoking and God Is My Broker, are in full effect in Boomsday. I'm only halfway through, but I can barely put it down to feed my child, which I suppose qualifies this as a half-way but fully glowing review.

It's no secret that I love Christopher Buckley, perhaps more than I love his father. I can take or leave their politics (mostly leave), but I cannot do without their writings. Whenever I read CBuckley I always think two things:

1. I'd love to have drinks and a long chat with this guy. I bet it would be the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on.
2. I hope he's as wickedly funny and erudite as his writing suggests, or else it'll be the saddest happy hour on record.

So. Short Story Long: read Boomsday. It's definitely funny and wry and all of those things that are CB's stock in trade. But it's also a very good thought piece on the future of social security, the challenges we face in having it continue as it is, and the additional problem of the US's mounting national debt. And don't be too offended by the "voluntary transitioning" storyline. CB is a Boomer too.

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