Review: Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley

Thank You For Smoking newThank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley
Publication: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 4th edition (February 14, 2006), Paperback, 288 pages / ISBN 0812976525
Genre: Satire
Rating:
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Read: August 2009

Thank You For Smoking feels like a very 90’s book. Not just because it’s set in the 90’s, but just because the uber-yuppie seems like such a 80’s/90’s cliche. It’s like how American Psycho was full of uber-yuppies (and, er, death)– that whole money-money-money and screw everyone else mentality. Some books, though they may have been written seventy years ago, still seem very fresh and new, where as some other books, er, don’t. Unfortunately, Thank You For Smoking felt more like the latter kind of book.

Summary from Indiebound:

Nobody blows smoke like Nick Naylor. He’s a spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies-in other words, a flack for cigarette companies, paid to promote their product on talk and news shows. The problem? He’s so good at his job, so effortlessly unethical, that he’s become a target for both anti-tobacco terrorists and for the FBI. In a country where half the people want to outlaw pleasure and the other want to sell you a disease, what will become of the original Puff Daddy?

Anyway, since it’s a parody of all those uber-yuppie things, Thank You For Smoking is by turns hilarious and horrifying. It’s hilarious because the whole thing is just over the top, and it’s horrifying because there are no doubt some people who did (or still do) think like the uber-yuppies in TYFS think. By the end I was tired from laughing but I was also somewhat shocked at how horrible people can be.

Satires don’t necessarily mean relatable characters, and unfortunately that holds true here. I was really interested in seeing how Nick was going to pull off his plot and I did root for him to win, but I didn’t like him as a person. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to like him, though– it’s really hard to like uber-yuppies because they’re so slimy even when they’re trying to do good things.

I did enjoy reading Thank You For Smoking! But it feels so dated that it was hard to get into completely, and I’m not sure I would have finished it if I hadn’t already seen the movie and wanted to see how it differed from the book. But it was funny, and an interesting look at mid-90’s yuppies (and how people thought of them), and I think some of the morality issues are valid even today. If you liked the movie, you’ll probably like the book!

Get your own copy from Amazon or your favorite indie bookstore.

Other reviews: NickAnny Creations | Knowledge is Cool | The Post College Years

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0 Comments

  1. I loved this movie, but I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted to read the book. Your review makes me curious though, that’s for sure.

    It is interesting how some books age well and some books don’t. I mean, Jane Austen’s books are very much set in her time, but she’s writing about people and their actions somehow transcend time in a lot of ways. Do you think this book might age better when there is some more distance — we’ll be able to look back on it and see something more universal in what it’s commenting on?

    • That’s a very good question! I do tend to think that uber-yuppies are a thing of the past, and that they’ve evolved into, like, yuppie-politicians, and so this book is dated in that way. But it’s possible to look past the yuppies and look at the ethics of business only, in which case it’s less dated and more “don’t let this happen again.” Or maybe even “make them stop doing this.”

  2. Rachel

    This review doesn’t even comment on what the book is actually about: lobbying! The point is, sure, the author could have written about a lobbyist for saving the whales, but he didn’t. He chose tobacco. Why? To illustrate a point. What point, you ask? That, essentially, all lobbying tactics are the same. Depending on who/what you are lobbying for, though, you need to be faster and smarter. The lobbyists for saving the whales sure must have an easy time persuading this generation. But are his lobbying tactics any different from Nick Naylor’s? Not at all.

    I am not saying all this out of criticism, but out of puzzlement. Why didn’t this critic even mention this major theme once?

    • I did, kinda! Lobbyists in the 90’s => gross yuppies => what I mentioned in my review. But honestly, I didn’t pick up that it was specifically about lobbying I thought it was more about corrupt businessmen and the state of 90’s politics.

      (Why are you talking to me in the third person, by the way? Second person is perfectly fine when I’m the only one reviewing on this blog and you’re commenting on my post; we’re talking person-to-person, here, not person-to-newspaper-editor (or whatever). ;D You can call me “you.”)

  3. Rachel

    Haha, sorry, I’m still getting used to the format here. Didn’t realize people were so active.

    Actually, lobbyists tend to be seen as corrupt businessmen, since they take a topic and support it to the end. Whether it’s smoking, abortion, the Republican party, whatever. People see them as sort of mercenaries.

    But I guess you’d have to do one of those intense “studying the book thoroughly” kind of things to really get that…or something. I just do that to every book I read, so I’m kind of a nerd. πŸ™‚

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