Thank You For Smoking published in 1994, right around the time medical evidence demonstrated flight attendants working for the airlines were dropping like flies after breathing in all that second hand smoke on airplanes. Right at the crossroads of the tobacco industry/smoking lobby having their way and all the legal restrictions enacted, things like no cigarette advertising on TV and radio, warning labels and designated smoking areas in restaurants and other public spaces. But, in the spirit of asserting personal freedom, the rights of individuals and the American way of life as outlined by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Nick and his bunch are fighting to turn back the tide. More than the string of events composing the story, the real humor comes through in Christopher Buckleys timing and language. Rather, here are a number of snapshots featuring our super sharp Nick dealing with all he has to deal with in his capacity as chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies in Washington, D.C.: THE MOD SQUAD Nick has lunch once a week with Polly and Bobby Jay, his counterparts, respectively, for liquor and guns. Through the magic of Christopher Buckleys storytelling, with the inclusion of BR, we can completely empathize with Nick, even, in many respects, take his side. THE BABES Heather the lovely journalist and Jeannette the luscious, success driven femme fatale within the Academy of Tobacco Studies try to get their way with Nick. THE KIDNAPPING AND ITS AFTERMATH What really infuses serious drama into Christopher Buckley's tale is Nick being kidnapped and tortured (dozens of nicotine patches slapped on his body all at once). As something of a bonus, here are a number of quotes from two of my all time favorite Christopher Buckley book reviews: From his review of The End of the Age, a novel written by Pat Robertson, champion of conservative Christian ideology: It's hard to define The End of the Age exactly. When you have a hard time keeping a straight face while reading a novel about the death of a billion human beings, something is probably amiss." From his review of Tom Clancys novel, Debt of Honor: This book is as subtle as a World War II anti-Japanese poster showing a mustachioed Tojo bayoneting Caucasian babies.
During one of his many television appearances, Nick mentions that his agency has pledged a cool five million to convincing teens NOT to smoke. Here, he speaks with the creative director: "What we did was to take the 'Some People Want You to Smoke. So now we're going to be blunt, we want to speak to them with the voice of despised authority, nag them, tell them to go to their rooms, turn them completely off," "I like it already," Nick said. It said, "Everything Your Parents Told You About Smoking Is Right." "Hmmm," Nick said. "You know what I love about it?" Sven said. Kids are going to look at this and go, 'Puuke.'" "And yet," Sven said, "its brilliance, if I may say so, is in its deconstructability." "How's that?" "Say the last three words out loud." "Smoking Is Right." "I think," Nick said, "that I can sell that to my people." Oooo - Subliminal.
Looking for a light read between my 2,400 page journey through post-apocalyptic America in Stephen King's The Stand and Robert McCammon's Swan Song, I picked up Christopher Buckley's 1994 political satire Thank You For Smoking, a title that appears on King's Reading List For Writers. The novel deals with the shameless exploits of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, whose product was killing between 435,000 and 475,000 Americans per year (depending on whose expert was testifying), but the book is written tongue-in-cheek and is as close to a beach read as I'm going to get. Nick Naylor is chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a Washington think tank committed to promoting cigarettes. "And how big was the control group?" "Come on, Nick." "Was this a prospective study?" "You want to be in the story, or not?" "Of course." "You want me to go with 'Where's the data?" "'Where are the data.' Please. The Mod Squad has at times welcomed representatives from the veal industry, tuna industry and radioactive waste industry to exchange strategies, but Nick, Polly and Bobby Jay are the permanent members. But when Nick appears on Larry King Live, a caller less than amused by the spokesman threatens to kill him. Buckley, would seem well positioned for observing how D.C. lobbyists use words as weapons, but as a storyteller, is also able to make each character sound unique. This reminded me of Elmore Leonard and like Leonard, Buckley's novel is a fast, funny and entertaining read. Today, Naylor would have no problem getting booked on Hannity & Colmes The novel has a weird thing going on where Buckley mixes real celebrities with fake ones. Buckley also fabricates movie stars, who Nick discusses on his trip to Hollywood.
He gets circumcised before he's even lit into this world, before an affluent ruffian of a human takes the first drag. I've a life span of 3-7 minutes, and that too luckily, if I am not incessantly dragged by a moron human, while he gets to last until eternity. I am still thankful though...to our old bearded-deep-voiced cigg god, to not have come across the wicked gassed people. And there had been a time in my life, when I was obdurate, when I was devoted, to the cause of getting my fellow cigarettes out of their bigotry. I've turned cynic now, I've not the time to make substantial changes to the way cigarettes think.
Here, Buckley sets himself the herculean task of turning Nick Naylor, the tobacco industry's chief spokesman, into a sympathetic character. Take this advice, which Nick gives his 12-year-old son: '"The important thing is...is to feel tired at the end of the day.' Aristotle might not have constructed an entire philosophy on it, but it would do. But theirs would not have been a good tired." If acidic commentary is your thing and you don't know Buckley's work, start here and don't look back.
A political satire skewering the tobacco, alcohol and gun lobbyists, the media, and the politicians who all have a role in public policy regarding these legal vices. But when he goes on Oprah, he becomes a hero to The Captain, and the golden boy of the Academy.
Nick Naylor is Big Tobacco's spokesman - the man whose job it is to make them look good, to suck up criticism and spin it into a positive. The story takes a few twists and turns, involving an unidentified person gunning for Nick, a threat on his life, some suspicious FBI agents and an attempt to get cigarette smoking into a major Hollywood film. If you enjoy slightly tasteless but incredibly witty reads involving morally suspect men - look no further.
A good example is the name of the main character, Nick Naylor, a lobbyist for the tabacco industry. The three main lobbyists in the book are anti-ATF. Not many people remember that at the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is said to keep Christmas better than anyone. I smoked briefly in college, but quit because I thought it was not healthy.
He shipped out in the Merchant Marine and at age 24 became managing editor of Esquire magazine. Since 1989 he has been founder and editor-in-chief of Forbes Life magazine.