words kill, words give life

Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley

Posted in books and stories by Kaitlin on July 8, 2009

I’ll admit it. I saw the movie first. We watched it in my promotional writing class last quarter. I absolutely loved the film, and I’m warning you now that may have colored my judgment.

I didn’t mind that the book had a slower pace than the film, I expected it. What I did not expect was its more sedate tone. I’m used to novel-inspired movies being toned-down mainstreamed versions of the book. With Thank You For Smoking, this was reversed.

The book felt a little dated. I realize Mr. Buckley penned this bestseller a decade and a half ago, and I didn’t expect it to be technologically current. But the slightly antiquated feeling was more than that. Buckley’s sentence structure felt starch with too much lengthy winding for today. Perhaps this is a sign of pre-millennial authorship, but should not a classic be able to withstand the test of time, especially so little time as this? The film felt like a classic.

Book Cover

Another issue I had with the book was  Buckley’s use of stereotypes. These of course, could be character faults of the protagonist, Nick Naylor, but they were assimilated throughout the third person narration. These include Naylor’s thoughts on the sexuality of black women, “It was true what they said about black women, every word – they were insatiable. No wonder black men fled their homes in droves. They needed sleep.”

When riding in a cab Naylor’s thoughts (or Buckley’s) often maligned immigrants: “‘National Airport. And hurry’ It was unnecessary to say that to any foreign-born D.C. cab driver, since they only drive at two speeds dangerously fast and really dangerously fast.” and “Even highly trained government drivers are no match for the ordinary Middle Easterner.”

One more issue I had with the book was the slight presence of Naylor’s son Joey. The movie, made ten years after the book was published, features a more-involved relationship between father and son. This probably is a “sign of the times” now that greater father-figure involvement is in vogue, but it also made the movie’s protagonist more lovable than the book version.

Christopher Buckley, author

I had high hopes for this book which were largely disappointed. I plan on reading another of Buckley’s books before I judge what idiosyncracies are his and which belong to his characters.

If you haven’t already, please vote in the poll in my previous post. I’d greatly appreciate it!


3 Responses

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  1. Lisa said, on July 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    I love reading books and comparing them to the movie, though I usually prefer reading the book first

    • Kaitlin said, on July 8, 2009 at 10:26 pm

      I know what you mean. I prefer to read the book first too.

  2. design nomad said, on July 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    BTW, I LOVE your banner!!

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