The Short Take:
This slim novel is a welcome and enjoyable counterbalance to this actual election year. It was a delight. It seems William Howard Taft has reappeared (just accept it and move on) and Americans are clamoring for him to run for President. Since he only served one term, he’s certainly eligible; but are people really embracing his standard or are they assuming he represents their own — much narrower — interests?
A little background: Taft (a Republican) was hand-picked by Teddy Roosevelt to follow in his giant-sized footsteps. However, before Taft’s first term was over, Roosevelt was fighting him and went on to form a third party, the Bull Moose Party. Taft was defeated and Woodrow Wilson became President
This is all fact. The fantasy is that Taft disappeared on the day of Woodrow’s inauguration, never to be seen again until he shows up, no older, on the White House lawn in 2011. What follows is a light-hearted take on all the hype, the conjectures, the media, the special interests, the campaign contributions, and even some of the issues of a modern presidential campaign.
Taft’s reactions to the modern world, his wonderful personality and surprising humility, along with his gigantic appetite are all on prominent display. He’s a great character and thoroughly dominates the book.
You can take this book as a serious comment on our times (along with the author’s obvious issue with over-manufactured food), but it is delivered in such an appealing matter that you can also just enjoy the fun. Think The Daily Show in book form and you get the general idea.
A Little Plot:
Taft reappears after a 100-year disappearance and Americans not only accept that, they lionize him. Within days a Taft Party forms even though Taft has not said he would run. Meanwhile, Taft is coping with a brave new world of computers, cell phones, and dramatic social changes. He is also having problems with some indigestible modern food items.
Of course, Taft shows all the wisdom of a Frank Capra film hero as he comes to grips with today’s politics, cities, and people; all while determing just where he fits in — and if he should run for President.
If you want to more know, Heller (or his publisher) has a very clever website about Taft as if he were actually here and running. It’s certainly worth at least a few minutes of your time. Just click here to visit.