Emperor of America | Critical Review by Jonathan Yardley

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Emperor of America.
This section contains 736 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Jonathan Yardley

Critical Review by Jonathan Yardley

SOURCE: "Condon's Hilarious Nightmare," in Washington Post, No. 64, February 7, 1990, p. C2.

Below, Yardley applauds the accuracy of Condon's satire in Emperor of America.

Richard Condon's 23rd work of fiction isn't so much a novel as a jeremiad, but that is scarcely likely to scare away his many admirers. Emperor of America is, so far as plot and characterization and other such trifles are concerned, rather short of the mark; but as a sendup of the Reaganite nightmare and the televidiotic culture upon which it fed, Emperor of America is bang on from first page to last—a mean, nasty and thoroughly hilarious piece of social and political lampoonery.

Its underlying premise is that, as "Ronald Reagan had very nearly broken his heart in trying to warn America," Nicaragua is "out to conquer the world." The Sandinistan designs are ghastly:

In 1980, Nicaragua had a population of 3 million people, but by practicing advanced breeding techniques, they had been able to swell to 21 million by CIA estimate, almost all of them fierce males who wanted to invade and occupy the United States, rape the flower of American womanhood, desecrate the flag, and ban the Pledge of Allegiance from all American schoolrooms, while making it part of martial law that all women have abortions regardless of race, creed or color.

All across the globe the Nicaraguan hordes are on the march, waving the banner of godless communism and launching invasions of strongholds of "the Free (Anti-Nicaraguan) World." One of these is against Portugal, but it is repelled by American forces led by Col. Caesare (Chay) Appleton, "a spit-and-polish soldier who had very little understanding of almost everything all other people took for granted," a 37-year-old career officer who suddenly finds himself, thanks to this famous victory, an American hero.

One thing leads very quickly to another. The District of Columbia is leveled by a nuclear explosion that "vanished the White House, demolished the Capitol, and caused all but one national government building, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency at Langley, Virginia, to disappear." The culprit is neither Nicaragua nor the Soviet Union but the enemy within, the Royalist Party, which stands for "strictly PR and looting all the way" and which is masterminded by Chay Appleton's brother-in-law, Wambly Keifetz IV, "the second-richest man in the world, lacking only that extra two billion to overtake an octogenarian Bochica Indian in Colombia who was El Supremo in cocaine production."

Keifetz needs a figurehead, and Chay is the perfect foil. Good military man that he is, he obeys orders and accepts the job of CINCAFUS-CIAFBIANSA: "Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency," which makes him "one of the most powerful men in the world, outranking his mother." In time he rises still higher, after "the American Republic had been transformed into an Imperial government over which Caesare Appleton, then Chairman/CEO/World Hero, had been named as the nation's first monarch, Emperor Caesare I, absolute ruler of the American people."

With that Condon is off and running, heaving grenades right and left as he polishes off just about every target offered to the satirist by this age of self-indulgence and excess. The list is recited by Wambly Keifetz:

Ronald Reagan was the greatest President this country has ever produced. He gave us the FBI race wars, the Qaddafi bombings, the Star Wars flapdoodle, the Grenada farce, the Bitburg shaming, the endless bank failures, the Lebanon disasters, the crumbling national airlines, the rape of HUD, the oligarchy of Big Oil, insured inflation, and the shoring-up of sinister Israeli politicians—all to keep our people diverted and entertained until the Royalty Party could consolidate its position. He fought for an end to legal abortion so that the market for our hard-ticket items would never be jeopardized but always expand beyond the food supply. He taught our people to get the money.

If it's all a bit on the broad side, from time to time crossing the line that separates satire from slapstick, who cares? Sex, drugs, the Mafia, the CIA, momism, television, Texas—you name it, Condon has an unkind word for it. His characters are caricatures and his plot is preposterous, but who cares about that, either? Emperor of America may be a pie-throwing exhibition, but say it for Condon that most of his meringues land right smack on target.

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This section contains 736 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Jonathan Yardley
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