ENTER THE AARDVARK: A NOVEL by Jessica Anthony; Little, Brown and Company, 2020; 192 pages, $26

ENTER THE AARDVARK: A NOVEL

A wise pundit once said: “What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.” And after reading Jessica Anthony’s hilarious political satire, “Enter the Aardvark,” most folks would agree.

The current political climate is ripe for spoofs, satire and outrageous storytelling, and Maine author Anthony nails it with this stinging contemporary social and political commentary, skewering Congressional politicians, the national media and countless other targets worthy of public ridicule.

Already the author of short stories and two novels, Anthony has a keen understanding of plot, character and dialogue, coupled with acerbic wit and the refreshing ability to make us laugh at life’s absurdities. Second term Congressman Alex Wilson (R-VA) is in trouble. He’s white, handsome and single, smugly arrogant, lavishly entitled to taxpayer money, and self-absorbed as a fawning Ronald Reagan disciple. He is also gay, and thinks nobody knows.

When FedEx delivers an anonymous stuffed aardvark to his DC townhouse, Wilson wonders: Is it a prank? Or is it a disturbing message? He tries to identify the sender, but ineptly ends up being arrested in a funny Keystone Cops scenario, which in turn leads to a national media frenzy in scandal-loving Washington. Wilson now sees his once promising political career circling the drain.

The aardvark’s 140-year journey from South Africa, through London and Germany, to Wilson’s doorstep is fascinating, linking ghosts, liquefied eyeballs, Nazis and closet homosexuality to a very public exposure. And when fumbling Congressman Wilson (wearing Reagan’s cufflinks and socks) finally understands what the aardvark really means and who sent it, it’s too late. His future is filled with disgrace, investigations and indictments.

Observing Wilson’s downfall, a chubby 10-year-old neighborhood boy declares that when he grows up “he wants to be a congressman or a clown.” Perfect.

 

THE PIONEERS: THE HEROIC STORY OF THE SETTLERS WHO BROUGHT THE AMERICAN IDEAL WEST, by David McCullough; Simon & Schuster, 2019; 336 pages, $30

THE PIONEERS: THE HEROIC STORY OF THE SETTLERS WHO BROUGHT THE AMERICAN IDEAL WEST

American historian Will Durant (1885-1981) once wrote: “Most of us spend too much time on the last 24 hours and too little time on the last 6,000 years.” Fortunately, another more recent American historian helps correct that.

David McCullough (born 1933) is one of America’s most respected historians (living part time in Camden), having written two Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies — “Truman” and “John Adams” — as well as excellent histories on the Panama Canal, the Wright Brothers and the American Revolution.

With “The Pioneers,” McCullough tells the intriguing multi-generational story of American settlement in Ohio and the Northwest Territory from 1787 to 1863. He chose this 76 year period and this region because it represents the successful expansion of American ideals into an “unbroken wilderness,” promoting freedom of religion and education, and no slavery.

He features five main historical characters — Revolutionary War general, pastor, farmer, architect and physician — adding other historical figures as the years pass. He describes how the Northwest Territory, comprising the area of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, was reluctantly ceded to the U.S. by Great Britain after the war. Dreams of economic wealth and political opportunity drove rampant land speculation with the formation of the Ohio Company of Associates funding an expedition into Ohio.

Early settlers created the town of Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent, legal settlement, building, farming, fishing, hunting and trading with the nearby Ohio River as its highway. Through the decades drought, disease, political turmoil and constant threats of Indian attack tormented generations of Marietta men and women, but hard work, faith and ingenuity prevailed.

Read about the powerful influence of other historical Marietta figures like Johnny Appleseed, Aaron Burr and the treasonous “Burr Conspiracy,” the Marquis de Lafayette, Charles Dickens and John Quincy Adams.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.