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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jaimee and I both have capsule reviews in the Indy's end-of-the-year booklist. I wrote about Bolaño and Jaimee about Aravind Adiga's Booker-Prize winning The White Tiger, but here's Jaimee on the book everyone's talking about.

Goodnight Bush
By Erich Origen and Gan Golan
Little, Brown & Company

Many a child may be fooled by the cover of this "unauthorized parody" of the classic children's story Goodnight Moon; upon closer inspection, however, the cover of Goodnight Bush, by Erich Origen and Gan Golan, portrays a nightmare world of factory smokestacks, oil drilling and Florida 2000 ballots roasting on an open fire.

Accompanied by a simple text in a rhyming series of good nights ("Goodnight Constitution, goodnight evolution"), it is with a careful eye one must read the pictures full of visual puns. We are led into a child's room, Little Georgie about to go to bed in his flight-cadet jammies. Lines of cocaine are on one nightstand, My Pet Goat on the other, surrounded by the dollhouse White House, little soldier men, the fox, the rocking chair, the blocks, the ballots and "a quiet Dick Cheney whispering hush." Is that yellow cake that sits on the bedside table or is that a slice of the American dream in the form of apple pie? As the story progresses, the toys move and change to document another facet of the Bush years: another grievance, another mistake, another disaster.

If this book has a moment in time, it is now. George Bush's legacy is bandied about on political talk shows and is soon to be stamped into history books, and here is a tiny sardonic snapshot that captures all that went wrong; it is only here, in a child's world, where we can laugh at the worst that has happened in a kind of catharsis. The book ends with both good and bad goodbyes: "Goodnight Earth? Goodnight heir? Goodnight failures everywhere." As a large percentage of the country looks forward to a New Year and a new administration, this clever little book is worth a look. —Jaimee Hills