Story Sense and Nonsense

From time to time I wonder why I continue to read the book reviews in The Times. The recent review by James Wolcott of Christopher Buckley's "The White House Mess" (Book Review, March 30) highlights the problem.

What little Wolcott describes makes the book sound riotously funny. Nevertheless, Wolcott's subjective descriptions ("winky dink," "wheezy" and "non-stop juvenile") appear to contradict this obvious reaction. What seems inescapable, however, is that Wolcott reveres P. G. Wodehouse, Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh, and that Buckley, in Wolcott's opinion, does not live up to their standards.

The best I can say of Wolcott's evaluation, from just the material that he provides, is that he has been unreasonably picky. After all, it is hard to think of anyone, even Amis himself, who has re-created the manic hilarity of "Lucky Jim." In addition, who cares if Buckley doesn't have Wodehouse's "solid-brick story sense." Can anyone, even Wolcott, relate the story line of any Wodehouse story? Finally, if Buckley's book is a "comic peek," is it fair to disparage the book because it lacks "Waugh's vampire bite"?

Wolcott tells us little about the book and a great deal about his own erudition and taste. It is disheartening to have to read through so much to get so little.


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