, by James Duffy
Simon and Schuster, 302 pages, $24.
There will be only three New York City newspapers that matter a couple of years from now, according to James Duffy's entertaining comic novel about the downfall of our next Mayor.
One is The Times , thank goodness, which will remain "restrained and fair.
The second will be called The Post-News -a merger of the two tabloids.
That name is the occasion for some amusing swipes from Mr. Duffy
, including the observation that one might see "'postnews' as a subset of postmodernism.
And just to confirm it's a fantasy, Mr. Duffy has the press collectively buy "the line that the new mayor was a class act and that the city was the beneficiary of a sort of meritocratic noblesse oblige."
has Hoagland reflect on what made him run: "A sense of duty?
, it will not surprise you to learn, is a Princeton man, too ('56).
concocts a suitably absurd little scandal involving a dog, firearms and a cover-up.
The key incident, which involves gunplay, happens before midnight on Fifth Avenue around 62nd Street, and the reader must accept that there was no one around to take note.
must get to bed early.
He may be a little fatigued: After practicing corporate law at Cravath, Swaine & Moore for 30 years, he has done quite a bit of writing.
is the author of a series of mysteries under the pen name Haughton Murphy; they feature a genteel, retired corporate lawyer and amateur sleuth named Reuben Frost and bear titles like Murders and Acquisitions .
This is Mr. Duffy's
first novel under his
way around New York City's establishment and curious political landscape.
He is a fluid and lively writer, which is a good thing, because he has chosen a difficult genre for this quasi-debut.
The comic novel of contemporary politics and manners is a hell of a tough thing to pull off.
aims for a middle ground between the assertively transgressive Tom Wolfe of The Bonfire of the Vanities and the lighter, jokier novels of Christopher Buckley.
does exhibit an entirely earnest appreciation for the "old New York names and possessors of old money," who do not receive the civic attention accorded to "members of more vocal and conspicuous minorities."
But Mr. Duffy doesn't really lay into, say, the figure of Artemis Payne, his black Public Advocate, except to note that he "graduated from City College and Cardozo Law School" and had "never succeeded in developing a practice that prospered, a hard task for any lawyer without a staff of junior lawyers and paralegals.
While Mr. Duffy's
ear for newspaper writing is not always perfect, the device is diverting and sometimes moves the story forward in surprising ways.
The narrative sometimes seems a little too brisk and linear, and you appreciate the moments when Mr. Duffy
pauses to give a fuller sense of an occasion.
On benefit dinners, for instance: "Their banal sameness was predictable: an execrable dinner in a badly ventilated hotel ballroom, hackneyed and overlong speeches extolling the honoree of the evening (read: a successful C.E.O. whose corporation had taken two or three pricey tables to support the sponsoring charity).
writes, is "the snowbound Brasilia.
A low-wattage politician is "an appreciative dais sitter."
The denouement of Dog Bites Man is the product, of all things, of various statutes entirely of a piece with the over-the-top goings-on in the rest of the book.
I was sure they were fanciful creations of a retired lawyer's imagination, and rather admired Mr. Duffy's
craft in drafting them.
But since Mr. Duffy
went so far as to provide fake-sounding citations-just the thing to keep the comedy humming!-the dutiful reviewer went and checked.
Suffice it to say that Mr. Duffy
has here overcome his
topics: Book Review, Eldon Hoagland, James Duffy, Princeton, Tom Wolfe