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August 30, 2007
One of the problems with writing a political satire in the age in which we live is that forecasting crises has become ever-challenging, partially due to popular-politicking on the part of journalists and partially due the media's ever-blurring lines of caricature and reality, the latter often confusing our understanding of what's terrifying with what's negotiable. News safety zones formulated around the common denominator--the deviation of what's acceptable determined by that target's gullibility--have made the rapid pace at which we are changing the world (and at which the world is changing us) unfold tremendously slowly. It directly follows that William Hart's attempt to expose the second Bush administration's questionable take on foreign policy, a challenge undertaken with larger than life strokes, feels like getting hit over the head with a novelty-sized paintbrush--that is, if one hadn't already had to endure it for months in the form of cable news network chatter and local op-ed pieces, both now a distinctive shade of blue.

Was the political atmosphere of the country such that writers like Hart needed to make the general public aware of the "War on Terrorism"s logical fallacies (e.g. declaring war on a concept with targeted geographical focuses following an attack by a small subset of people whose beliefs are spread--however sporadically--worldwide) then Operation Supergoose might sadly prove effective. But Bush approval ratings are dismal, stigmas associated with environmental awareness have been deflated, and new ways of envisioning our future are at an all time high.

All things considered, Hart's political satire fails to find the right blend of all those elements that make time-honored dystopias so moving: the perfect lack of logic coupled with a protagonist grounded in reality, an unconquerable omnipresent totalitarian entity, a pitiful everyman trapped in two irreconcilable worlds. Hart has all of these, as most writers would feel the need to, after the generation-defining works of Joseph Heller, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut (respectively), but those elements fail to work toward any form of cohesion. Sadly, the novel reads like a random association game constructed in the author's imagination, one based in pure subjectivity and played out through the novel's characters.

The plot revolves around Lieutenant Ernest Candide, a soldier with superhuman capabilities, who realizes that his strengths are not being used for good; he ultimately discovers that learning how to think is the only way to escape his present predicament. Not surprisingly, when Lieutenant Candide does use his mind he is brought up on treason charges. In some zany turns of events, Candide decides that he will let the public know his story--the whole story--by writing a book. Candide's project turns into Hart's, or vice versa, and a special moral gets attached: "Candide's book project now seemed less significant to him. Even if he got the thing published, and even if thousands of people read it, he knew it wouldn't likely change the world. Individual humans working for themselves and for their families would do that, if anyone did."

The relationship Hart builds with his audience is based on the mutual understanding that the war is a farce. Beyond that, the author offers readers a labor of love, one that requires little challenge for those hoping to look beyond the current political situation. His careful observation (and cartoonization) replaces the ingenuity expected from a work that doubles as reality, one meant to resound in echoes of the horrific changes to come. Supergoose does not engender new ways of thinking and that is precisely the problem. The novel amounts to nothing more than a whimsical, at times comical, experience (to the chagrin of Republicans now leaning to the left), little more than pure absurdity spoken from a soapbox.

Hart's work is steeped in dyslexic name games, allusions, and word associations, all based in pure fiction (with an obvious wink), which are actually quite catchy after their initial obvious eye-rolling effect; however, the author's inconsistency signals a gap in carefully thought out naming for larger compositional purposes. Buzz Twofer II, Plunderland's wily president (an ironic two-for-the-price-of-one allusion), has a ranch in Texas, lives in the White House, is the 43rd president, and ends speeches with "God bless you." Furthermore, the dialogue--aside from Bush cowboy-isms--fails to locate its characters. To some effect, enemies of Plunderland, Madmahn Badassi (Saddam Hussein) and Moola al-Razir (Osama Bin Laden) are well spoken, emphasizing the jingoism that comes with declaring wars in the name of democracy, but the dialogue all sounds the same--that is, stale.

With these missteps it's as if Hart gets caught up in his own immediate purpose without recognizing that there is a difference between his farce and the real situation progressing outside the pages. Proponents of his work will scream, "But that's precisely the point. His absurd take on the current situation isn't so far off." If that's the case, Hart leaves little room for alternative ways of seeing the current dilemma, let alone any foresight to a time beyond the Bush administration (soon approaching). When Hart finally takes us into some likely future scenarios--160 pages into the 200 page novel--the plot has already zigged into fantasy and zagged back to reality so much so that any plot taking place between the should-be war hero turned enemy of the state (Candide), double agent Delilah Jihad, and the antagonistic CWAP (The Committee for a World Ascendant Plunderland), comprised of Vice President Chain Dickey, Secretary of Defense Clayton Minefield, and Parson Rupert Weed, has spun ridiculously out of control.

Nobody will question Hart's understanding of foreign relations, as the historical backdrop of all the intangibles leading up to the conflict, the vantage points from every side involved, and incompatibility between brands of thinking placed side by side all combine to reveal the wheels moving the machine of modern diplomacy. What we should question, however, is Hart's choice to appeal to those willing to take the war as it comes, on letterpress ink and through cathode ray tubes. There's a large group of people that Hart fails to acknowledge, and that's a critical thinking subset of the public (and a very large one, I might add), who--no matter what side of the conflict they fall on--can always envision a future far different than the one narrated in complacency of the now.

SEE ALSO: www.timberlinepress.com

--
Patrick Gill
In in a state of suspended adolescence, Patrick Gill can be found hiding away in northwest Ohio, where he spends most of his time rediscovering shoegaze, noise pop, britpop, slowcore, sadcore, lo-fi, neo-psychedelia, post-rock, trad rock, and trip-hop music. In his spare time he teaches college English.

See other articles by Patrick Gill.

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