Well, it’s not the equal of They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?, The Relic Master, or Thank You for Smoking. But it’s hard to believe that much of anything else written about life during the age of COVID could be funnier than the fictional pandemic memoir titled Has Anyone Seen My Toes? Christopher Buckley has been writing funny books since The White House Mess in 1986, when he was head speechwriter for then-Vice President George H. W. Bush.
As politically aware readers with long memories may be aware, Buckley is the son of the late William F. Buckley, Jr. The father was for decades the leading intellectual light of the conservative movement as editor and publisher of The National Review. However, as the Republican Party has moved ever further rightward in the years since, the son has gravitated in the other direction. He famously voted for Barack Obama in 2008. And, as he makes abundantly clear in this latest of his novels, he abhors the most recent Republican occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and all he stands for. And it all makes perfect sense in the context of this laugh-out-loud funny pandemic memoir.
An accomplished stand-up comedian who writes funny novels
As I wrote in my review of an earlier book a decade ago, “Christopher Buckley is a very funny man. I know this not just because I’ve read a few of his books, which generally ‘kept me in stitches’ (whatever that means), but also because I actually spent much of an evening with him a few weeks ago. He’d come to Berkeley to do a ‘reading’ from his newest book, They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? Somehow, I’d been invited to introduce him to the audience of about 150 people who were there to hear him.
I managed to coax out two or maybe three laughs during my introduction and the questions I later posed. He elicited—oh, maybe 600. Because this was no ‘reading.’ Like the consummate pro he is, he didn’t actually read from the book. He simply talked extemporaneously and, later, answered questions from the audience. The man is an accomplished stand-up comedian.”
Has Anyone Seen My Toes? by Christopher Buckley (2022) 284 pages ★★★★☆
The pandemic, a quack physician, and a cockamamie screenplay
So, here’s the scoop. It’s 2020. The protagonist is presumably, the author’s doppelgänger. He’s sixty-eight and living in Pimento, South Carolina, with his second wife, Peaches, and her brilliant and diabolical son, Themistocles. (Of course, there’s a story behind that name, too.) He’s been steadily gaining weight throughout the pandemic, having become a devotee of Hippo King, home of the Hippomongous-Burger Combo. (It’s “a thing to die for. Maybe literally.”) The man in the drive-in window sneezes on him. Fearing death by COVID, he calls his concierge physician, Dr. Paula, in a panic. And she proceeds to prescribe yet another drug, this one recommended by her idol, President Trump.
Whoever heard of Jack Higgins?
Somehow, he is unaware of Jack Higgins’ bestseller about a Nazi plot to kidnap Winston Churchill, The Eagle Has Landed. In his ignorance, he is now inspired to begin writing a screenplay with a similar premise—and what a story it is! It’s March 1944, and a Nazi intelligence officer named Heimlich resolves to kidnap President Roosevelt. The President is scheduled to visit his friend, Bernard Baruch, at his estate on the coast of South Carolina, Hobcaw Barony. The screenplay will be named Heimlich’s Maneuver.
The caper will involve setting loose a horde of wild pigs set ablaze to distract the Secret Service, snatching FDR, and hustling him off to a U-boat waiting offshore. Heimlich is to rush the President to Berlin to use as a bargaining tool, forcing the Allies to call off the Normandy Invasion. But of course it does’t work out that way, since the screenplay devolves into a buddy story between FDR and Heimlich.
Meanwhile, the author of this budding masterpiece has become embroiled in the local race for coroner. He has somehow gotten it into his head that the two candidates—best of friends, in reality—are eviscerating each other in print and on television. Calling each of them to complain about the other’s crimes, he quickly antagonizes both men. This won’t turn out well, either.
If you will, call the book a pandemic memoir. But of course it’s just a lot of fun.
About the author
Christopher Buckley is the author of twenty books, including a dozen novels, most of them political satire. He was born in New York in 1952. As a young man, he worked his way around the world as a deckhand on a Norwegian tramp freighter. Following that, he attended Yale University, which he left with a bachelor’s degree cum laude in 1976. He worked as a magazine editor for many years before turning to writing books full-time. He has been married twice and has a son and four stepchildren.
For more reading
Christopher Buckley heads the list in My 10 favorite funny novels. My reviews of his novels can be found at Christopher Buckley writes satirical novels that are very, very funny.
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