Face-Time

Erik Tarloff, Author
Erik Tarloff, Author Crown Publishing Group (NY) $23 (249p) ISBN 978-0-609-60463-2
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-671-03978-3
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Political speechwriter Ben Krause discovers his girlfriend has better access to his boss--the president of the U.S.--than Ben does. The question, in Beltway insider Tarloff's timely first novel, is whether the affair really bothers him. Ben and curvaceous, plainspoken Gretchen Burns, who works in the White House Office of Social Affairs, make an ambitious young Washington couple who don't have to be told twice about the value of ""face-time"" or direct access to the president. They receive all the right invitations, including private film screenings with the president and first lady and their coterie of friends. There, Gretchen catches the commander in chief's eye and soon Ben is being sent out of town on unlikely peace missions. A wry, self-deprecating and appealing narrator given to gee-whiz expressions (""I know it sounds dopey and sappy""), Ben struggles with the issue of sharing his girlfriend with a man who, on one hand, is the leader of the free world, yet, on the other, represents a humiliating insult to his manhood. Gretchen, in contrast, remains the not terribly bright opportunist observers have come to recognize from presidential scandals, notwithstanding Tarloff's attempt to portray her sympathetically. The husband of Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who served on the Council of Economic Advisers for President Clinton, and a speechwriter himself, Tarloff has penned a book that is more a benign meditation on the effects of being cuckolded than a pointed political send-up, although his acute observations aptly illustrate how absolute power can corrupt absolutely. Author tour. (Jan.)
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