cover image White House Mess

White House Mess

Christopher Buckley. Alfred A. Knopf, $16.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-394-54940-8

With a dotty, pajama-clad President Reagan refusing to leave the White House on his successor's Inauguration Day, Buckley has given this farce of Oval Office politics a nearly perfect beginning. Unfortunately, he uses his best shot first and the rest of the book rarely equals the wit that energizes the hilarious opening. Parodying the familiar form of the White House memoir, Buckley (author of Steaming in Bamboola, son of William F. Buckley) recounts the turbulent years of the Democratic Tucker administration, as told by loyalist Herbert Wadlough. Through this former accountant's eyes, we see the infighting that plagues the White House, the President's faltering marriage to a former starlet, and his ongoing crises, including restoration of ties with Castro andin one of the novel's smarter sectionsa Marxist coup in Bermuda. Buckley, a onetime speechwriter for George Bush, obviously knows Washington's foibles and follies, but the zest of the book's early promise is smothered by an otherwise bland performance. Literary Guild alternate. (March 24p