Tarred and feathered

Buckley puffs out the talking points of both sides in the tobacco wars, and the result is ludicrous and delightfully incorrect in this day of safe spaces – thank YOU for daring, Mr. Buckley.

Thank You for SmokingThank You for Smoking · Christopher Buckley · 1994
Random House, 2006 · 272 pages, paperback

Nick Naylor is the PR guy for Big Tobacco in Christopher Buckley’s Thank You for Smoking, a laugh-out-loud satire that’s funny because it’s true.

Nearly everything in this novel is daubed with tackiness, from the buxom office assistant with the latex gloves to the Merchants of Death (Naylor’s three-way friendship with the head PR folks of the Firearms and Alcohol industries) to the dirty-yet-sterile sex scenes: they’re awkward in a raunchy, who-does-that? kind of way, like a shifty-eyed neckbeard with a blow-up sex doll. Ooh! Aah! Yes! Ooh! So corny, I love it!

Thank You for Smoking is an easy read, driven successfully by its immature dialogue that reads with the same play-action pluck of Trump’s Twitter feed. Nyaaaaaargh! BOOM! Big Tobacco is duking it out with a whole slate of health orgs and government yuppies and Cancer patients, and they’re all getting down and dirty.

As spokesman for an industry whose products cause nearly half a million deaths a year, Naylor gets a lot of flak. But oh man, is he good at his job! Thank You for Smoking puts the quandary of legal but unethical front and center, and it’s PR that bears the brunt of it, not tobacco. With its media stunts, Hollywood backroom bargaining, hush money and competition for who can spin the facts fastest, it’s a novel that dangles a fat check before our eyes as we sell our ethics to the highest bidder.

How good an actor can he be if he has to kill people for a living?

What’s a PR guy if not an actor of a sort? A ballsy move by his boss to stub him out puts Naylor on the other side of things. Will he see through the gricky grime of office politics run amok? He’s been tarred and feathered and left wheezing for his life.

Thank You for Smoking is a black comedy with the slimy smear of tobacco. If you’re a delicate flower, daily running to a safe space, then here’s your trigger warning: you won’t like this book (you might even round up the troops to shout a little protest over it). But if you have a bit more mettle to your marrow, you’re going to laugh and snort all the way through it and still feel wholesome at the end (that epilogue’s a zinger).

Thank You for Smoking · Christopher Buckley · 1994
Random House, 2006 · 272 pages, paperback


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