Notes on the Atrocities
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Monday, April 05, 2004  

One book, two reviews

A couple months ago I received not one but two promotional copies of White House, Inc. Employee Handbook. I contested the extra one off on the requirement that whomever won it would join me in reviewing the book.

The reviews are in.

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1.

White House, Inc. Employee Handbook by Wooden, Bradley, Devore, Harper; published by Plume 2004; $14.00

Review by Alfred O. Cloutier

While White House, Inc. Employee Handbook is a biting and mostly accurate portrayal of the real White House, Inc., (recently, Ralph Nader "...accused Bush of being 'a giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being.'") it isn't terribly funny. The book was flat. It was mildly humorous at best, mean and tedious at the worst. The authors rip at Bush's religion, his corporate cronyism, and perceived bigotry to humdrum effect.

The Employee Handbook pretends to bring the reader, as a new employee to White House, Inc., through an orientation to a new workplace. From mini-dossiers on each major personality (referring to George Sr. as "Chairman" and Dick Cheney as "Vice" President) to foreign policy and "faith based governance"--including a "Salvation Security Act", the Employee Handbook describes each facet of work in the White House with mundane riffs.

There are a few good passages that don't try to pack as much acidic satire as possible into every sentence, but those are rare and difficult to get to. If you hate the current administration and the President enough, you might think this is worth a passive, taking a crap kind of read. If not, you might get more yuks out of your own company's employee handbook.

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2.

White House, Inc. Employee Handbook by Wooden, Bradley, Devore, Harper; published by Plume 2004; $14.00

Review by me.

Satire is a funny art. Essentially, it's the act of blowing up an object so large that its shadow is finally unmistakeable. It's a game of "just right"--too much emphasis on the factual parts of the object, and it's too subtle, too much emphasis on the comedic elements, and the object itself is missed. Having dabbled in satire myself, I know what it's like to aim for a target and nail it and also miss wide to the right.

The problem with the Employee Handbook is that's it's only barely satire. Mostly it's an extremely harsh indictment of an administration the writers clearly can't stand. Example: Under the "Rules and Regulations" chapter, there's a section on "Harassment of Coloreds."

With the exception of his visceral opposition to affirmative action (see p. 112), integrated capital-murder juries, and that Martin Lawrence King Day thing, President Bush has been consistent in demonstrating a commitment to being perceived as a devoted friend of the Negro--so long as they are not loitering within 500 yards of a working voting machine.

Today, coloreds have equal rights to enjoy congealed gravy and bad service at Woolworth lunch counters around the country, and our President cannot help but feel a deep respect for their many contributions to our professional sports and common street-whore industries. As such, he is determined to foster an environment at White House Inc. where every last do-rag wearing Welfare Queen and Baby Daddy can dream of following in the footsteps of Bob Barr, Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell--and renounce all that "but I like being black" nonsense and start acting like nice high-yellow folks."

Pretty tough stuff--so tough, in fact, that the humor is lost in the verbal violence.

That's not all bad. A lot of people hate this administration and would love to see someone throw the kitchen sink at them. They're tired of the President getting let off the hook with such polite phrasings as "may have misled Congress" and "contained some inaccurate representations." They'd like, just once, to see someone call the President all the vile things they've been secretly feeling about him. A mental palate-cleanser, if you will. If that fits you, this may be your book. If you're looking for something truly satiric, though, you're going to have to keep reading the Onion (or hope to get lucky here).

posted by Jeff | 2:49 PM |
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