cover image BUSHWORLD: Enter at Your Own Risk

BUSHWORLD: Enter at Your Own Risk

Maureen Dowd, . . Putnam, $25.95 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-399-15258-0

As scathingly funny as she is zingingly succinct, New York Times op-ed columnist Dowd has been riding Bush & Co. since his presidential campaign first gathered steam in 1999. Her approach has less to do with party than class: since winning the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for her commentary on the Clinton impeachment, Dowd, originally from working-class, Washington, D.C., has become the unlikely mouthpiece of broad-swath middle-class anger at corporate bosses, the conservative very rich and hawks of all stripes. The book collects five-plus years of pieces whose titles ("Bomb and Switch"; "Weapons of Mass Redaction") draw one into Dowd's weirdly high-low tabloid rata-tat-tat: "The Boy Emperor's head hurt. All the oppressive obligations of statecraft were swimming through his brain like hungry koi." The best of them synthesize out loud what the punditocracy e-mails to each other in private as the news day progresses. That real-time quality, with Dowd riffing out loud in medias res, doesn't always work in book form. But with events having unfolded so rapidly in the last five years, this compendium, Dowd's first, serves as a kind of summa for the mochaccino set's political grievances. Others cover the same waterfront, but Dowd's keen dramatizations of complex situations, uncannily biting caricatures and merciless re-spinning of spin set her far apart from the pack. The results remain devastating, even after the fact: "Gorzac: works to counteract nausea that occurs when you turn on the TV and see Al promising to 'let it rip'...." Agent, Esther Newberg. (Aug.)

Forecast: This should be one of the major political books of the fall, sure to be embraced publicly by Dowd's pundit peers and bought in droves by loyal local and national Times readers.