Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Review: 'Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why: Essays' by Alexandra Petri

Under my particular rock, we have not heard of Alexandra Petri. This is a total failure of mass communications that needs addressing immediately. 5G can wait; this is pretty basic. Petri writes short pieces for the Washington Post and her style is nothing  less than dynamite. It is a cross between SJ Perelman and Art Buchwald, which I probably have to explain. Perelman was a master of word manipulation, as well utter zaniness he called dementia praecox. He wrote Marx Brothers films, for example (Please don't make me explain the Marx Brothers too). Buchwald was the apotheosis of Beltway observations. He could twist anything going on in Washington into a yarn of incalculable ridicule, while always seeming positive and supportive. You could slice off your arm with the silver linings he found. So reading Petri's book Nothing is Wrong and Here is Why is a privilege as well as a delight.

Petri divides her book into sections, dealing with say, politics, or politics, and then politics. Because her pieces on women are largely political, and so is pretty much everything in the book, and in American life today.

Like any editorialist, she jumps on news items, and in her case, twists them delightfully almost beyond recognition. Example: a piece on the new Trump Space Force - as a Star Trek spinoff, with synopses from numerous episodes. In every one, everyone dies. In another piece, she answers the question, if Deep State were a college, how would you apply? I think my favorite is entitled  HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO BRETT KAVANAUGH? and as should be evident from from the all-caps, there is a lot of yelling involved.

While she usually takes her time twisting the knife, there are some points that she scores in single sentences:
-"Because there are no sensible gun laws, it is always too soon after a major gun tragedy to talk about sensible gun laws."
-"The only blind trust that Donald Trump has is the blind trust that the American people have placed in him to run his business appropriately."
-The Trump budget cut funding for the National Institutes of Health so that "we will buy more planes and guns to shoot viruses out of the sky."
-She says she roots for women because one gave birth to her.
-Women automatically get a discount card for life that entitles them to steep discounts on their salaries.
-Conservatism is "the ability to pass the dangers and privations of my life on to the generation that will come after."

This is far better than damning with faint praise, a favorite tactic of mine. This is seeing the idiotic effects of our elected representatives in real action, damaging day to day life for all. These are practical applications of the mind-numbing daily activities of everyone from Scott Pruitt to Paul Manafort, with drive-bys for Sean Spicer, and Ivanka and Melania Trump.

Would that there were more like her. Failing that, Alexandra Petri is dramatically one to watch.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.