Harmless Drudges


If the brightest stars in the literary firmament combined all their candlepower for an important political cause, would it generate enough light to read a book by? Not if Dave Eggers' The Future Dictionary of America is any indication. With contributors including Wendy Wasserstein, T. Whatisname Boyle, Paul Auster, Kurt Vonnegut and many more, this Devil's Dictionary for the Bush years is designed as a way "for a great number of American writers and artists to voice their displeasure with their current political leadership, and to collectively imagine a brighter future," say the editors. All proceeds will go to "groups working for the public good in the 2004 election." (I never thought I'd get nostalgic for the old Eggers, but it's dismaying that I no longer suspect for an instant that stuff like that last bit might be a hoax.)

The problem, judging by this AP story, is that the entries are funny as lupus. Vonnegut phones in "Rumsfeld: one who can stomach casualties." Robert Coover defines "ashcrofted" as "removed from or disqualified for public office on grounds of religious delusions." Art Spiegelman goes for the lowhanging fruit once again with "ralphnadir: the lowest point in any process." That's not even a pun; it's just a misspelling. The King of Horror at least supplies a useful one: His "sloudge: endless political opining on cable television," is three syllables shorter than "bloviation," which it would replace.

It's one thing to generate comedy only the choir could laugh at, but I agree (mostly) with anti-administration opinions here and even I can't fake a laugh. I suspect the book will fly off the shelves though. As Bridget Jones would say, "It's positively Vonnegutesque."