The Woody

Peter Lefcourt, Author
Peter Lefcourt, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-684-85393-2
Reviewed on: 11/02/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-684-85744-2
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-671-03855-7
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Senator Woodrow Wilson White--antihero of this slickly funny spoof--is in a tough reelection campaign. There's the ethics committee investigation into an old sexual harassment rap. There's the burgeoning affair between his photogenic second wife, Daphne, and a Finnish ice-skater named Sonja. There's his first wife's demand for a chunk of the advance the senator has received for his autobiography. There's the campaign itself, which is badly in need of funds. But Woody's real problem, as the novel begins, is less political and more personal: he's ""flatlined"" (impotent ) with Evelyn Brandywynne, an attractive prophylactics lobbyist. Lefcourt takes all the disparate elements of the modern-day political scene--the constant search for funds, the schedule that reduces political commitments to senatorial horsetrading--and constructs a comedy with the polish of a very good TV skit, but one that has difficulty finding direction after the initial, establishing jokes. Yet Lefcourt, who specializes in the absurdist name-drop, makes a brave search, crosscutting between a gallery of dour Vermonters who seem to have leapt out of a Coen brothers movie and the D.C. scene, which in Lefcourt's version centers on a tight circle of gay staffers. The main joke here is that Ishmael, Senator White's chief of staff, is straight but is hiding it in order to find out the latest D.C. gab--and so it goes. Balzac it's not, but in his second novel in a row (after Abbreviating Ernie) to treat on penile anxieties, Lefcourt continues to show his talent for staging farce, Hollywood style. (Nov.)
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