Richard Condon | Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang

This literature criticism consists of approximately 4 pages of analysis & critique of Richard Condon.
This section contains 990 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang

Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang

SOURCE: "Insulting without Libel in a Satirical Novel," in The New York Times, September 18, 1991, p. C18.

In the review below, Mitgang discusses the targets of Condon's satire in The Final Addiction.

There's nobody else quite like Richard Condon writing satirical novels today. The singular Condon genre combines American politics, scoundrels in various corners of the world, linguistic shenanigans, cholesterol-loaded meals, cold warriors in intelligence agencies, legalized thievery in Washington and put-downs of the high and mighty everywhere. As the comedian Mort Sahl used to say in his nightclub act at the Hungry I in San Francisco. "Is there anyone here I haven't offended?"

The Final Addiction, Mr. Condon's 24th novel and may he go on forever, could be categorizedas a Reagan-Bush-Quayleera thriller. It's not so deliberately plotted as The Manchurian Candidate or Prizzi's Honor, but it's nearly as imaginative and even more outrageous. The remarkable achievement of Mr. Condon's recent novels, including his new one, is that they are insulting without being libelous. A neat trick.

American Presidents often provide the background music for Mr. Condon's novels. Winter Kills featured a libidinous young President who is assassinated. The Star-Spangled Crunch included a big-time operator who is forced to leave office because of a scandal. In The Final Addiction, there are references to Calvin Coolidge, Jimmy Carter and, coming up to the 1980's and 1990's, a dimwitted President who loves sending arms to the Nicaraguan rebels and another who is best remembered for hating broccoli.

The real and the unreal all flow together in Mr. Condon's mad, mad, mad Presidential whirlpool. A future White House hopeful's wife, Mrs Goodie Noon (sounding like Finley Peter Dunne's humorous political observer, Mr. Dooley), says:

"Oh, it's nice bein' a President, I can tell you. Look at the time the Reagans went down to Barbados for a little five-day visit. Three hundred and eighteen people had to go along with him an that ain't countin the crews on the hospital ship and the light cruiser filled with marines ready to swarm ashore in case they had to rescue him from the tourists, and the 700 members of the international press media." After saying that the Reagans knew how to do it "better'n bein' a king and queen," she goes on: "Sure, the five days on Barbados for two people in love cost the taxpayers $5 million, but think what Truman or Kennedy or Johnson or Ford or Carter woulda given the people. Jes' the same old thang—gettin' on an off Air Force One. Lemme tell you no other ruler in the world comes even close to the Reagans when they travel on the taxpayer."

The character named Goodie Noon does succeed President Reagan. Instead of going to Camp David, the Marine helicopter takes Mr. and Mrs. Noon to the family pad on "Bland Island." In case the reader is in doubt about who the author means, Goodie has the Presidential helicopter, which he calls his Herkybird, fitted out like the interior of the ranch house to the movie Giant, with "several really good paintings by Grant Wood." Even though Goodie was born "a Connecticut man, he lived and breathed Texas" and claimed four states as his home.

Goodie, who at one point is described as the education President, has a hero: Calvin Coolidge. The author compares their speaking styles: "Goodie Noon's voice, had Calvin Coolidge ever spoken, which he had not, could have been a nasal match of his hero's speech. It was as though trained people came in every morning, before both men arose, to pack their sinuses with hot sand through which a dissonanttreble wind whistled." Goodie often uses his voice to declaim, "Promote the flag, and the flag will promote you."

Among the novelist's other targets are the National Rifle Association, Klaus Barbie, Barbara Walters, his own fictional Prizzis ("a kinder and gentler Mafia"), the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the K.G.B., the Chinese Foreign Intelligence Department, frankfurters containing monosodium glutamate and other additives and preservatives, the Concorde, the savings and loan industry, the New York City subway system, Star Wars, wigs worn by United States Senators and Walter Cronkite's mustache.

Oh, yes, there's a plot in The Final Addiction.

A young man is a successful frankfurter salesman, specializing in novelty franks, which the trade says should never be called hot dogs. His wife is beautiful and his father-in-law is wealthy. But there is something nagging at his mind as he grows up. His mother left him at an early age, leaving only a note saying that there's hamburger in the fridge. His wife has a blooming career as a pop singer. He meets a woman who is supporting her simpleton husband for President, using her billions of dollars from her cocaine empire. How is the young man going to find his long-lost mother and what has she been up to? The way to track her down is to become a television anchor, make several million a year and be seen on screens all over the world and be spotted by Mom.

Meantime … the Chinese, the Syrians, the Afghans, the Mafiosi and disguised intelligence agents from the fisheries and wildlife services of nine nations are watching the anchor's every move. And the frankfurter business begins to expand.

All more or less clear?

In the final chapter of The Final Addiction, Mr. Condon wraps it up: "That is the full (if amazing) story of the profound national mystery of how an unknown, inexperienced 32-year-old man came to be nominated as candidate for Vice President of the United States of America at the Republican Presidential nominating convention at New Orleans, the youngest and, some would say, the callowest man ever to be chosen for that high office, which, as every American child knows, is only a heartbeat away from the Presidency. The man named to be Vice President had had no experience beyond the field of frankfurters."

Kichard Condon has done it again. As they say in Hollywood, The Final Addiction is high concept.

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This section contains 990 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Herbert Mitgang
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