Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pants on Fire – Thank you For Smoking

The success of a book like “Thank you for Smoking” rests on the shoulders of creating a solid antihero. And if anything Nick Naylor is an antihero. He lies for a living. His job is to go onto television and radio and spin attacks against the tobacco industry into positives. He uses shaky statistics, charisma and a quick wit to keep twisting the attacks back onto the attackers, and he’s very good at it.

Christopher Buckley has created a very interesting character, one that is despicable and yet at the same time likable. Nick knows what he’s doing is morally wrong, but he’s so darn good at it, that the challenge seems to feed him. He rises to each attack, many seemingly hopeless and manages to get out of the predicament each time.

As a reader you keep turning the pages to see what new challenge Nick will face next and how he’ll get around it. He’s on Oprah with a young man who’s got cancer, and who was inspired to smoke by Joe Camel. How do you turn that into a positive – Nick does it. The senator from Vermont wants to put the skull and crossbones on cigarette packs. Nick turns it into an issue with Vermont cheddar cheese. He’s sent to Hollywood to get cigarettes into more movies and shown in a positive light. The whole situations provides a hilarious look at product placement in films.

The book as a whole is very cynical and black hearted, but it’s consistently amusing and had a few laugh out loud moments. It’s the character of Nick that keeps it interesting and fun. And even when I felt that the whole thing was getting stretched just a bit too thin, Buckly starts to wrap up his tale.

All in all it’s a good study on how to make an entertaining and interesting antihero.

Have you read, “Thank you for Smoking”? What did you think? Who is your favorite antihero character?

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