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Buckley Skewers Washington In 'They Eat Puppies'

"I tend to write about things that annoy me," Christopher Buckley tells NPR's Neal Conan.
Katy Close
"I tend to write about things that annoy me," Christopher Buckley tells NPR's Neal Conan.

In Christopher Buckley's latest political satire, They Eat Puppies, Don't They? a lobbyist teams up with a conservative policy wonk to spread a rumor that China is plotting to assassinate the Dalai Lama. Together, they create a huge disinformation campaign that nearly sparks World War III.

Buckley joins NPR's Neal Conan to talk about his new novel, and also to remember Ray Bradbury. Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and numerous other titles, died on Tuesday. Buckley wrote the introduction to the collection The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

Interview Highlights

On what Buckley calls 'the whole pointlessness of satire'

"So the book comes out May 8, right, and the central theme is a sort of comic McGuffin, if you will, of is China actually trying to poison the Dalai Lama or aren't they? On May 13 indeed, Reuters posts a story: Dalai Lama says China tried to poison him. ...

"The Dalai Lama's purported assassins were allegedly posed as devotees wanting to have him bless their head by laying his hand on them, and their hair was coated with their deadly poison, sort of Satan's Brylcreem. ...

"[So] yeah, fact or fiction, why bother?"

On some of his favorite political satires and satirists

"Dr. Strangelove ... I esteem as the greatest satirical movie ever made. ...

"Certainly Evelyn Waugh's Scoop is the book that I kind of keep close by. And when I despair — which I do about every quarter hour — I pick that up and sort of read a few pages. ...

"And Mark Twain, well, good heavens. It goes without saying. ... It's surprising how many authors could be considered. It's an elastic term, satire. Take Tom Wolfe's great — really, truly great novel, perhaps his masterpiece in a field full of great books, Bonfire of the Vanities. That could, I think, be considered a satire, too, but it, you know, it could also just be ... considered dramatic fiction. But is it automatically satire if it makes us laugh? Probably not so. That might be ... too elastic a definition of it."

On his friend Ray Bradbury

"He was beloved by writers. And I think a lot of writers started out — I sure did — sort of wanting to be Ray Bradbury. I wrote that introduction to a collection of his stories [The Stories of Ray Bradbury], and I started it with a line of dialogue from the series Mad Men.

"Don Draper is sent out to the West Coast, and someone says, well, you know, 'What's in L.A.?' And he says something like 'Sun, pools, Ray Bradbury.' It's a little throwaway line, obviously put in there by the writer, duh, of the script ... sort of a little micro-homage, if you will, I think. And I'm very sorry to hear that Ray has passed. But good Lord, what a life. ... God rest him, and I'm sure he's either on Mars happily, or somewhere else in the Celestial Imperium, and I wish him Godspeed."

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