25.3.07

THE SECOND TIME AS FARCE. An Irish-American President names his brother the Attorney General. Both have the propensity to diddle ladies not their wives. Some of the ladies are also being diddled by men with connections to La Cosa Nostra. The President's father made his fortune as a bootlegger. Despite all of those reasons for the administration to be friends with Cosa, the Attorney General very publicly pursues what he calls "the Mafia." Out of this plot, author and Florida State professor Mark Winegardner contrives The Godfather's Revenge, which is going to get an unfriendly Book Review No. 5. I'll leave the completion of the plot to the reader as an exercise. (The degree of difficulty is ln(1.5)) The writing is not Mario Puzo. It's not quite Tom Wolfe, and it's not quite an academic novel, but the depictions of the crimes committed (and there are many) do not measure up to the pacing of Tom Clancy's similarly active combat passages. Too often, Professor Winegardner appears to be projecting his views of today's world onto the rolling up of "the Mafia" during the American High. As a commenter at the Amazon site notes,
[T]he reader learns in a jarring nod to Osama bin Laden that "the most powerful nation on earth had deployed skilled intelligence and law enforcement personnel to conduct a gigantic manhunt for a powerful and resourceful leader of a secret criminal society—a tall, imposing, bearded man with a chronic, withering disease—and somehow failed to find the cave where he was hiding." Godfather fans might prefer getting reacquainted with the original novel and the two better of the three films it inspired.
Exactly. (Among other anachronistic references scattered throughout the book, the expression "spider hole" comes quickly to mind.) I will give Professor Winegardner props for his digs at academic culture. One of Don Vito Corleone's granddaughters is a professor of English, quite possibly attempting to pioneer literary "theory," by including in her work in progress digs at a subliminal male desire to be the first to take a leak on the Moon and the total absence of female love interests in the early episodes of Bonanza. She's later depicted thinking of her male colleagues as "pudgy, pasty, bearded, obsessive on three or four narrow subjects, dominated by his mother, either a virgin or deviant or a sad, sour-smelling combination of both." It is a shame that such a stirring call for a reclamation of the academic culture should be hidden in such a blatant rip-off of any of the legion (and specious) conspiracy theories about President Kennedy's assassination.

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