Christopher Buckley is far and away the most accomplished political satirist writing today in America. In novels such as Thank You for Smoking and They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?, he has skewered the nation’s political establishment six ways from Sunday. Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, he returns to that field of battle with another of his trademark sendups of none other than Donald Trump himself. In Make Russia Great Again, he has taken on a man who might be thought immune to satire because he does such a great job of making a fool of himself. The book may not be Buckley’s best effort, but it’s far better than anything else in print that finds humor in The Donald’s tragic misbehavior. It turns out that parodying Donald Trump requires a satirist of Buckley’s enormous talent.
Make Russia Great Again by Christopher Buckley (2020) 288 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
The narrator writes from prison, but he’s still loyal
The narrator of this very funny novel is Herbert K. Nutterman, a twenty-seven year veteran of Trump’s hotels whom Trump calls “my favorite Jew. (When he was pleased with me, that is.)” The President names him Chief of Staff, much to his amazement and his wife’s fear and disgust. And we know from the outset that her fear is well-considered, since Nutterman writes from federal prison, where he is serving a long sentence for some infraction unspecified until the very end of the story. He’s still loyal, though. You won’t catch Herbert K. Nutterman satirizing Donald Trump.
Yes, the Russians really do have something on Donald Trump
The title (Make Russia Great Again) telegraphs the theme of this novel. It appears that a crooked Russian oligarch (and thus Vladimir Putin himself) “has something on Donald Trump.” Unless Nutterman can arrange for the repeal of a law that froze the oligarch’s assets, all the evidence will come out publicly. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the White House, the intelligence establishment has set in motion an artificial intelligence (“Placid Reflux”) designed to counter Russian interference in the 2020 election. And what that countermeasure proves to be is . . . well, let’s just say dramatic. It’s all nutty, of course, but a whole lot of fun.
Satirizing Donald Trump requires special talent
So, really, how DO you satirize Donald J. Trump? Well, for starters, you don’t make up a silly name for him like those you assign to other characters. “Greta Fibberson, our chief of communications,” for example. “President Attajurk of Turkey.” “Mr. Fangschwaller, his top adviser on immigration.” “Our chief speechwriter, Stefan Nacht von Nebel.” Oh, and don’t forget the “House Aryan Caucus.” And after that beginning, the humor is all situational. Even Donald Trump couldn’t possibly get himself into the absurd fix that Buckley describes in this charming sendup of the none-too-charming mess in the White House.
For further reading
You might also be interested in:
- My 10 favorite funny novels (plus dozens of runners-up)
- The top 5 books about Donald Trump and his impact on American democracy
- Good books about Vladimir Putin, modern Russia and the Russian oligarchy
- A satirical novel about Donald Trump by Dave Eggers
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.