Public Men

Allen Drury, Author Scribner Book Company $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-684-80703-4
Drury died recently after a long career that never approached the apogee of 1961's Pulitzer Prize-winning Advise and Consent. In this final volume of his University Novels series (Into What Far Harbor?), he fires one last hyperbolic salvo at those he deems culpable for America's plummeting moral, cultural and political values. Liberals and the media (especially ""New York's Mother of All Newspapers"" and ""Washington's Daily Conscience of the Universe"") draw heavy fire. The shaky plot assigned to shoulder this polemical load focuses upon aging California Senator Richard Emmett ""Willie"" Wilson, whom the author depicts as a controversial spokesman for ""middle of the road"" values, though Wilson's opponents seem more incensed by his smug, golden-boy persona than by his moderate political agenda. As the novel opens, Wilson is organizing a reunion in the year 2001 for the surviving members of his 1939 Alpha Zeta fraternity house. The reunion chapters bracket a series of flashbacks to the milestones and millstones of the senator's very distinguished, very public life. Among these are the death of his first wife, confrontations in the 1960s with his radical activist son and an aborted run for the presidency during the mid-1980s. His nemesis at every juncture is Dr. Renny Suratt, rogue frat brother, nationally prominent liberal gadfly and, as Drury portrays him, a cross between Abbie Hoffman and Lucifer. Wilson and Suratt persist for decades in their barely civilized debate, fueling it with an inexhaustible supply of enmity and mutual jealousy. Unfortunately for the reader, it's like watching two drivers who engage in strident highway shouting matches on their daily commute between glass house and ivory tower. The story crumbles beneath the weight of its own world-weariness and despair for a nation that no longer measures up to the author's ideals. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-7278-5428-5
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