I've just finished David Frum's novel Patriots, which is absorbing, insightful and funny. I might be expected to give it a positive write-up, being a friend and sometime colleague of David's. However, be it noted that if I didn't like the book, I would not hesitate to say so here at Quicksilber, given this blog's fiercely independent tradition of presenting my candid opinions to an indifferent world.
It takes place in an alt-universe America, where the economy is dismal, the military is bogged down fighting insurgents in Mexico, and politics is polarized between "Constitutionalists" and "Nationalists." Walter Schotzke, callow trust-funder, gets sucked into the Constitutionalist movement and encounters fanatical activists, scheming politicos, craven think-tank officials, Machiavellian media moguls and more.
Some people might be irritated by this book, perhaps perceiving unflattering parallels between themselves and certain characters at places like the Constitutionalist Institute and the Wall Street Transcript. Some young readers might respond to the book by hesitating to apply for that congressional internship or op-ed page job for which they were aiming. However, some readers might respond to the nuanced narrative by focusing on its glimmers of hope for American political culture.
I found fascinating the tension between realism and caricature, and the grey areas where it's not clear where one ends and the other begins. It was also quite interesting seeing Schotzke's perspective slowly change, as his experience and sophistication grow. In any event, I laughed out loud. And if I could vote for Sen. Hazen of Rhode Island, last of the moderate Constitutionalists, I would do so.