November 24, 2002
HOW DO YOU COMPETE WITH THE REALITY?:
Allen Drury and the Washington Novel
(Roger Kaplan, Sep/Oct 1999, Policy Review)
WHEN ALLEN DRURY DIED LAST YEAR on his 80th birthday, the thoughts of editors and obituary writers naturally turned to Advise and Consent, the book that made him famous, that gave a memorable last film role to Charles Laughton, and that in many ways invented a genre in fiction. Henry Adams and John Dos Passos had written novels on politics in Washington. But the use of a racy intrigue, if possible involving both sex and foreign policy, is what characterizes the contemporary form. Forty years on, Advise and Consent is the only book of this genre that a literary-minded person really ought to read. Indeed, as Saturday Review noted in August 1959, "It may be a long time before a better one comes along." Forty years so far.
Both the book
and the film
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2002 8:15 AM
I read the whole series, from "Advise and Consent" to "The Promise of Joy", many years ago, repeatedly. I think it was probably a formative influence in my views on foreign policy, at least during the Cold War era which was then still in full force. In hindsight, I would have to say that Drury's muse probably went on part-time status after the end of the "Advise and Consent" series; his later books, to be blunt, read as if he'd loaded the building blocks from the A&C books into a word processor and then cranked them back out. In particular, his characters' use of slang and idiom was stuck fast in the 1950's, which was quite jarring in novels supposedly set in the 1980's. About the only three books I really like from his post-A&C period are "Mark Coffin, U.S.S", and the (bilogy?) "The Hill of Summer" and "The Roads of Earth".
I also read the whole series. A&C was excellent, but there's a reason no one remembers the other 5 books. Basically, they became more interesting and less realistic.