Book Review: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
And enter the riotous 60’s. If you’re reading through the Pulitzers, the 60’s actually begin with a book written in 1959, Allen Drury’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner, Advise and Consent, a novel that was, to be honest, at 616 pages, a bit of a slog. The extensive character list (tabulated for the reader by Drury before the commencement of the first chapter) and its subject (the ultimate “establishment” topic of the Cold War era United States Senate) was intimidating, but once I got started and settled in, it was actually all quite marvelous. Here’s what I mean. The depiction of the inner workings of the Senate, the subtle characterization of the commerce of politics, of human relationships, of internal states, even, is masterful. Much of this ability comes from Drury’s commitment to journalism and its careful attention to human motivations. It also comes from his commitment to writing in plain English (a commitment Drury was forced to express in a novel, it is said, because of the hostility at the time of his employer, the New York Times, to “plain English”) which manages to put the vast political world of Drury’s novel within readers’ reach.
Nowhere in Drury’s book is the colorful counter-culture the 60’s are so famous for. But then this is a novel conceived and written in the 50’s about the challenges of American ascendancy. The popular American reaction to its own abilities and power was yet to come. In this way and several others, not least through the tragedy driving its core, Drury’s book sets the stage for the reactionary tumult that was the 60’s. As a record of the failed best attempts of mankind, Drury’s book demands to be read by any civic-minded citizen. For most of us out here in 21st-century-land, far from the pseudo-historical-fiction events depicted in the novel, our best expression of solidarity might be for us to equip the book as a doorstop.
Craig B is a thirty-something lover of books, movies, and rock and roll whose grandmother still worries that he might not be eating enough. (Love you, Grandma!) He lives with his charming wife in the small town of Berne, IN (in sight of the clock tower) where he busies himself keeping the Roses of Sharon in check and training his chinchilla in the ancient arts of the Ninja. Craig’s current favorite book is Buddenbrooks
by Thomas Mann.