Book Review: Thank You For Smoking

Thank You For Smoking
By Christopher Buckley

This book was really great for me for a variety of reasons. The reading of it was perfectly timed. The writing of it was masterfully done and playful all the while. The characters' behaviors are absurd, but not enough to be unrealistic. The book really picks up about halfway through. It was very quick reading and I never once thought about my 50-page rule. Plus, as evidenced in this review, this book was a very personal reading experience for me.

Nick Naylor, the main character, is a tobacco lobbyist and a brilliant one at that. However, he's on the hot seat at work right up until he gets kidnapped and tortured by "gaspers", those who are crusading against Big Tobacco. He somehow spins it and becomes a, well, I guess a hero in the land of tobacco? It's strange and bizarre.

Nick's a player and he's always thinking about women. This book had a little bit more sex that I'm comfortable with, but for some reason it didn't piss me off this time. I think the author did a good job of making the sex scenes kind of...cartoon-ish? Babes are attracted to him like moths toward flame. The more raises and responsibilities and pats on the back from "The Captain" Nick gets, the more action he gets. There's a couple of twists and turns and, well, no spoiler here, sorry. The twist is actually pretty easy to spot, but that didn't ruin the novel for me at all.

Finally, he's part of the MOD Squad - the Merchants of Death. It includes him, representing the tobacco lobby, and then a lobbyist for alcohol and for the gun lobby. This bunch is really entertaining as they talk about their work woes. Plus, their friendship is genuine. They're not always nice to each other and they're always honest with each other. Their interactions were my favorite part of the novel.
My boss, Rev. Ice D, recommended this book when he read that I was looking for a pick-me-upper. It was about the same time I reviewed The Natural. I picked that book up thinking "Field of Dreams" and instead got baseball noir. The Natural was great, don't get me wrong, but it was no pick-me-upper. Initially, I really didn't think Thank you for Smoking wasn't either. It was pretty damned funny, but it sort of sent me on a warpath at the same time.

[Warning: The "smoking sucks" rant begins here]

I started reading this book at a very interesting time. In my post Smoking and Suffering, I described how cigarettes effected my health. I was eyeball deep in this book and it was the final straw for me. Although the main character was brilliant in many ways - hustler that would make Jay-Z proud - I knew he and his army of death merchants shouldn't fool me, or anyone! I knew I could be smarter by simply learning from my own experience. I wheezed when I did yoga. I was out of breath at the top of the stairs. I don't need scientific data to tell me smoking is bad - ten years of doing it made that clear! But it shows how the most wealthy and powerful industries can find the smartest people, the best con artists to get the job done. I know that this is a work of fiction, but frankly, it doesn't seem like it's too far off the mark.

Allow me to be honest for a moment: I know that there's people out there waaaayyyyy smarter than I am, but a tobacco lobbyist is NOT one of those people! I shall no longer be yanked around by their stinking propaganda. It is my hope that others can also break free from Big Tobacco's hold. It's hard. It's worth it.

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